Social response to the delivery of HIV self-testing in households: experiences from four Zambian HPTN 071 (PopART) urban communities

HPTN 071 (PopART) Study Team

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Background: Door-to-door distribution of HIV self-testing kits (HIVST) has the potential to increase uptake of HIV testing services (HTS). However, very few studies have explored the social response to and implications of door-to-door including secondary distribution of HIVST on household relations and the ability of individuals to self-test with or without supervision within households.

Methods: A CRT of HIVST distribution was nested within the HPTN 071 (PopART) trial, in four Zambian communities randomised to receive the PopART intervention. The nested HIVST trial aimed to increase knowledge of HIV status at population level. Between February 1 and April 30, 2017, 66 zones (clusters) within these four communities were randomly allocated to either the PopART standard of care door-to-door HTS (33 clusters) or PopART standard of care door-to-door HTS plus oral HIVST (33 clusters). In clusters randomised to HIVST, trained Community HIV care provider (CHiPs) visited households and offered individuals aged ≥ 16 and eligible for an offer of HTS the choice of HIV testing using HIVST or routine door-to-door HTS (finger-prick RDT). To document participants' experiences with HIVST, Interviews (n = 40), observations (n = 22) and group discussions (n = 91) with household members and CHiPs were conducted. Data were coded using Atlas.ti 7 and analysed thematically.

Results: The usage and storage of HIVST kits was facilitated by familiarity with and trust in CHiPs, the novelty of HIVST, and demonstrations and supervision provided by CHiPs. Door-to-door distribution of HIVST kits was appreciated for being novel, convenient, private, empowering, autonomous and easy-to-use. Literacy and age influenced accurate usage of HIVST kits. The novelty of using oral fluids to test for HIV raised questions, some anxiety and doubts about the accuracy of HIVST. Although HIVST protected participants from experiencing clinic-based stigma, it did not address self-stigma. Within households, HIVST usually strengthened relationships but, amongst couples, there were a few reports of social harms.

Conclusion: Door-to-door distribution of HIVST as a choice for how to HIV test is appreciated at community level and provides an important testing option in the sub-Saharan context. However, it should be accompanied by counselling to manage social harms and by supporting those testing HIV-positive to link to care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAIDS Research and Therapy
Issue number1
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents/therapeutic use
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • HIV Infections/diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening/methods
  • Qualitative Research
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Self-Testing
  • Social Stigma
  • Urban Population
  • Young Adult
  • Zambia


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