Free home-based oral fluid rapid HIV self-testing, although promising, does not result in a higher rate of testing than that offered in medical/community venues, new research shows.

Roland Merchant MD, MPH, ScD, of the Department of Emergency Medicine, Alpert Medical School at Brown University and colleagues studied young adult men-who-have-sex-with-men (YMSM), focusing on three racial/ethnic groups—black, Hispanic, and white—to see whether they are more likely to complete home-based oral fluid rapid HIV self-testing, as compared to mail-in blood sample collection or medical facility/community organization-based HIV testing.

The researchers stratified participants (N=425) by race and ethnicity and randomly assigned them to use either the oral fluid rapid HIV self-test (n=142), the mail-in blood sample collection HIV test (n=142), or being tested at the medical facility/community organization of their choice (n=141). 

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The researchers found that of the total sample, the assigned test (66% oral fluid vs. 40% mail-in blood sample vs. 56% medical facility/community), willingness to refer (36% oral fluid vs. 20% mail-in blood sample vs. 26% medical facility/community), and legitimate referrals (58% oral fluid vs. 43% mail-in blood sample vs. 43% medical facility/community) were greater in the oral fluid rapid HIV self-test than the mail-in blood sample collection HIV test arm, but not the medical facility/community testing arm.

There were no differences in assigned test completion by race/ethnicity, the researchers found.

“Although free home-based oral fluid rapid HIV-self-testing showed moderate promise in facilitating HIV testing among black, Hispanic, and white YMSM, it did not lead to greater testing than directing these YMSM to medical facility/community HIV testing venues,” the researchers concluded.

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