New HIV self-testing kit aims to increase diagnosis rates

July 4, 2017 by James Russell, University College London
New HIV self-testing kit aims to increase diagnosis rates
HIV Rapid Test - Orasure, by Wheeler Cooperwaite

A new study from UCL, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Public Health England seeks to discover whether providing free HIV self-tests to men, transgender men and transgender women who have sex with men could reduce the number of people who have undiagnosed HIV.

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), SELPHI is an internet-based study where respondents will be asked to register their details through an online survey that is being promoted through apps such a Grindr and Hornet, social media sites and the gay press. Researchers hope the results of the study will help the NHS decide whether it should provide free HIV self-testing kits.

SELPHI is a randomised trial, which will offer some of those who register a free HIV self-testing kit. Selected participants can then test a sample of their blood or saliva and provide the result via a survey without having to attend a clinic or other healthcare setting

Currently most HIV tests are conducted in genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinics. It is thought that some men may be more likely to test, and to do so more often using the HIV self-testing kits - because this method is more private, quick and convenient than visiting a clinic. The tests are quite straightforward – the individual just has to take a sample of blood and process it themselves.

Professor Sheena McCormack (MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL) who is jointly leading the study with Dr Alison Rodger (UCL Institute for Global Health) said, "The number of new HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men is still depressingly high in the UK. Over half of men who have sex with men test less frequently than recommended and around a quarter have not done so at all. It is currently thought that around 13% of those of with HIV are unaware of their status."

"We are aware that many men may not get tested as they do not have the time to visit a clinic, feel embarrassed about visiting one or speaking to a doctor. Therefore self-testing kits could make them more likely to find out their status, giving them the opportunity to seek treatment for HIV earlier than they otherwise would have done."

The researchers think that the availability of free kits to those who are selected to take part in the trial will appeal to people in areas of England and Wales where rates of testing are currently quite low.

Co-researcher Michelle Gabriel (MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL) explained, "The self-testing kits may particularly encourage those in rural areas to get tested. If you are in a large urban area like London it is relatively easy to access a clinic and get tested, however in somewhere more remote it might involve two bus journeys, and there also may be concern about someone you know finding out that you are visiting the clinic. HIV Self-testing kits are already available for around £30 each but it is hoped that being able to offer them free will encourage greater numbers to use them."

Dr Rodger who is leading the grant added, "Although previous studies have shown that self‑testing is acceptable and increases uptake of testing amongst gay men, SELPHI is the first one designed to see if there is an impact on HIV diagnoses."

The SELPHI trial is open to recruitment now; individuals who are interested in taking part can join the study by visiting the SELPHI Website www.selphi.org.

Explore further: Giving women HIV self-tests promotes male partner testing

Related Stories

Giving women HIV self-tests promotes male partner testing

November 8, 2016
Providing pregnant and postpartum women in sub-Saharan Africa with multiple HIV self-tests can make it more likely their male partners will be tested for HIV compared to a standard approach of distributing invitation cards ...

Almost half of HIV infections worldwide undetected: WHO

November 29, 2016
The World Health Organization warned on Tuesday that nearly half of all people with HIV around the globe do not know they are infected, and called for broader access to at-home testing kits.

Grindr, the social networking app, can be an effective way to distribute HIV home-testing kits, study finds

July 12, 2016
A study led by researchers from UCLA found that the gay-oriented social networking app Grindr is an effective means through which to distribute HIV self-testing kits among men who have sex with men who have a high risk for ...

Innovative HIV self-testing study empowers young women in rural South Africa

November 30, 2016
A Public Health research unit at Wits University is leading a study that enables young women in rural South Africa to test themselves for HIV.

DIY sampling kits accessed through gay men's social media unearth new HIV cases

May 24, 2016
Offering DIY sampling kits for HIV using online dating apps and social media targeting gay men, successfully unearths previously undiagnosed cases of the infection, reveals an evaluation of the first large-scale dedicated ...

Brazil's Health Ministry delays providing dengue test kits

February 12, 2016
Brazilian laboratories say delays in providing kits to test for mosquito-borne dengue have forced them to store patient blood samples until the kits are delivered.

Recommended for you

HIV exports viral protein in cellular packages

February 15, 2018
HIV may be able to affect cells it can't directly infect by packaging a key protein within the host's cellular mail and sending it out into the body, according to a new study out of a University of North Carolina Lineberger ...

Can gene therapy be harnessed to fight the AIDS virus?

February 13, 2018
For more than a decade, the strongest AIDS drugs could not fully control Matt Chappell's HIV infection. Now his body controls it by itself, and researchers are trying to perfect the gene editing that made this possible.

Big data methods applied to the fitness landscape of the HIV envelope protein

February 7, 2018
Despite significant advances in medicine, there is still no effective vaccine for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), although recent hope has emerged through the discovery of antibodies capable of neutralizing diverse ...

Scientists report big improvements in HIV vaccine production

February 5, 2018
Research on HIV over the past decade has led to many promising ideas for vaccines to prevent infection by the AIDS virus, but very few candidate vaccines have been tested in clinical trials. One reason for this is the technical ...

Microbiome research refines HIV risk for women

January 25, 2018
Drawing from data collected for years by AIDS researchers in six African nations, scientists have pinpointed seven bacterial species whose presence in high concentrations may significantly increase the risk of HIV infection ...

Researchers find latent HIV reservoirs inherently resistant to elimination by CD8+ T-cells

January 22, 2018
The latest "kick-and-kill" research to eliminate the HIV virus uncovered a potential obstacle in finding a cure. A recent study by researchers at the George Washington University (GW) found that latent HIV reservoirs show ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.