Men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly MSM who identify as African-American or Black (BMSM), are the sociodemographic group that is most heavily burdened by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic in the United States. To meet national HIV testing goals, there must be a greater emphasis on novel ways to promote and deliver HIV testing to MSM. Obstacles to standard, clinic-based HIV testing include concerns about stigmatization or recognition at in-person testing sites, as well as the inability to access a testing site due to logistical barriers.
This study examined the feasibility of self-administered, at-home HIV testing with Web-based peer counseling to MSM by using an interactive video chatting method. The aims of this study were to (1) determine whether individuals would participate in at-home HIV testing with video chat-based test counseling with a peer counselor, (2) address logistical barriers to HIV testing that individuals who report risk for HIV transmission may experience, and (3) reduce anticipated HIV stigma, a primary psychosocial barrier to HIV testing.
In response to the gap in HIV testing, a pilot study was developed and implemented via mailed, at-home HIV test kits, accompanied by HIV counseling with a peer counselor via video chat. A total of 20 MSM were enrolled in this test of concept study, 80% of whom identified as BMSM.
All participants reported that at-home HIV testing with a peer counseling via video chat was a satisfying experience. The majority of participants (13/18, 72%) said they would prefer for their next HIV testing and counseling experience to be at home with Web-based video chat peer counseling, as opposed to testing in an office or clinic setting. Participants were less likely to report logistical and emotional barriers to HIV testing at the 6-week and 3-month follow-ups.
The results of this study suggest that self-administered HIV testing with Web-based peer counseling is feasible and that MSM find it to be a satisfactory means by which they can access their test results. This study can serve as a general guideline for future, larger-scale studies of Web-based HIV test counseling for MSM.