HIV disproportionately affects men who have sex with men (MSM) in the United States, and new infections continue to increase particularly among African American (AA) and Hispanic/Latino (H/L) MSM. Past studies estimate that up to 50% of these new infections originate from the approximately 20% of MSM who are unaware of their status. Expanded HIV testing can produce reductions in incidence when implemented on a broad scale by facilitating earlier diagnosis and treatment. Rates of HIV testing are particularly low among AA and H/L MSM, and innovative approaches to encourage testing may help address high incidence in these men. Home-based, self-testing (HBST) for HIV offers considerable promise for increasing the number of MSM who are aware of their status by overcoming key barriers to clinic-based testing, such as inconvenience and confidentiality concerns. HBST may also be particularly well-suited for AA and H/L MSM, given that stigma and mistrust of medical care contribute to low testing rates. Despite its promise, however, many are concerned that HBST does not sufficiently connect users with critical post-testing resources, such as confirmatory testing and care among those who test positive, and that these limitations may result in delayed linkage to care. Existing, FDA-approved HBST kits provide a free, 24-hour helpline that offers these services to those who seek it, but few users do, and this ?passive? approach may miss critical opportunities to engage with MSM for further prevention services. To address these challenges, we developed a mobile health platform (?eTEST?) that uses internet-of-things (IoT) technologies to monitor when HBST users open their tests in real time, allowing us to provide timely, ?active? follow-up counseling and referral over the phone after they do so. In a pilot study, we show that providing HBST by mail at regular intervals boosted rates of any/repeat HIV testing among high-risk MSM compared with clinic-based testing reminders. Moreover, those who received follow-up phone counseling after HBST were more likely to receive risk reduction counseling, to consult with a medical provider about PrEP, and to initiate PrEP. Given these promising results, the proposed research will conduct a fully-powered efficacy trial of this approach in areas with large populations of AA and H/L MSM and high HIV incidence: Jackson, MS, Los Angeles, CA, and Boston, MA. High-risk MSM who have not tested for HIV in the last year will be recruited from MSM-oriented ?hook-up? mobile apps, and assigned to receive either (1) HBST with post- test phone counseling/referral (?eTEST? condition), (2) ?standard? HBST without active follow-up, or (3) reminders to get tested for HIV at a local clinic (?control? condition) at three month intervals over the course of 12 months. We will explore the impact of the eTEST system on key outcomes, including rates of HIV testing, receipt of additional HIV prevention services, and PrEP initiation, compared with standard HBST or clinic- based testing reminders alone. We will also explore the cost effectiveness of the eTEST system under various scenarios compared with relying on traditional, clinic-based testing alone.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research tests whether providing more active, phone-based counseling and referral after using a home-based HIV test (HBST) increases regular HIV testing among high-risk, predominantly African American and Hispanic/Latino MSM, compared with more passive approaches (i.e., a 1-800 number) or reminders for clinic-based testing alone. The research will also examine whether this more intensive follow-up can increase engagement with other prevention services, such as PrEP. Finally, the research will explore how HBST affects the emotional/behavioral well-being of high-risk MSM.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Behavioral and Social Science Approaches to Preventing HIV/AIDS Study Section (BSPH)
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Greenwood, Gregory
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Brown University
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
United States
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