PloS one 2018 02 2013(2) e0192936 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0192936
Promoting consistent HIV testing is critical among young, Black Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM) and transgender women who are overrepresented among new HIV cases in the United States. New HIV test options are available, including mobile unit testing, one-minute testing, at home or self-testing and couples HIV testing and counseling (CHTC). In the context of these newer options, the objective of this study was to explore whether and how preferences for specific characteristics of the tests acted as barriers to and/or facilitators of testing in general and consistent testing specifically among young Black MSM and transgender women aged 16 to 29.
We conducted 30 qualitative, semi-structured, in-depth interviews with young, Black, gay, bisexual or MSM and transgender women in the New York City metropolitan area to identify preferences for specific HIV tests and aspects of HIV testing options. Participants were primarily recruited from online and mobile sites, followed by community-based, face-to-face recruitment strategies to specifically reach younger participants. Thematic coding was utilized to analyze the qualitative data based on a grounded theoretical approach.
We identified how past experiences, perceived test characteristics (e.g., accuracy, cost, etc.) and beliefs about the "fit" between the individual, and the test relate to preferred testing methods and consistent testing. Three major themes emerged as important to preferences for HIV testing methods: the perceived accuracy of the test method, venue characteristics, and lack of knowledge or experience with the newer testing options, including self-testing and CHTC.
These findings suggest that increasing awareness of and access to newer HIV testing options (e.g., free or reduced price on home or self-tests or CHTC available at all testing venues) is critical if these new options are to facilitate increased levels of consistent testing among young, Black MSM and transgender women. Addressing perceptions of test accuracy and supporting front line staff in creating welcoming and safe testing environments may be key intervention targets. Connecting young Black MSM and transgender women to the best test option, given preferences for specific characteristics, may support more and more consistent HIV testing.