An internet-based self-testing model (easy test): Cross-sectional survey targeting men who have sex with men who never tested for HIV in 14 provinces of China

Xia Jin, Junjie Xu, M. Kumi Smith, Dong Xiao, Erica R. Rapheal, Xiangfei Xiu, Zhengwei Ding, Yang Zhang, Yang Jie, Ying Liao, Ningxiao Cao, Hao Wu, Yugang Bao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: With China's explosive internet growth, activities such as socializing and partner seeking among men who have sex with men (MSM) has also become Web based through popular services such as Blued. This creates a new mode of health promotion with the potential to instantly reach large numbers of MSM, including those who rarely access traditional offline testing facilities. Objective: This study aimed to assess the feasibility of the Easy Test in increasing access and uptake of HIV testing and treatment services among MSM and to identify demographic and behavioral predictors of program uptake to inform future implementation. Methods: A feasibility study of the Easy Test model was conducted from October 2017 to December 2017 in 14 Chinese provinces. Applicants who provided informed consent completed a self-administered questionnaire and submitted a US $5 deposit to have the free test kit delivered to their homes. Orders were then received, processed, and posted by volunteers from local community-based organizations. Once applicants submitted images of their test results, the deposit was refunded to the applicant. Those whose test results were deemed to be HIV-positive were then connected to a peer navigator to accompany the individual to follow-up medical services. A chi-squared trend test was used to assess the relationship between lifetime HIV testing volume and HIV prevalence. Logistic regression models were used to identify independent risk factors associated with two outcomes: (1) never having tested for HIV and (2) receiving an HIV-positive result. Results: A total of 879 individuals submitted Web-based requests for test kits. Their median age was 28 (interquartile range 24-34 years); 69.3% (609/879) had at least a college education, and 51.5% (453/879) had a monthly income between US $450 to $750; 77.7% (683/879) of the applicants submitted images of their test results, among whom 14.3% (98/683) had an HIV-positive result. Among the 42.9% (293/683) who were first-time testers, the HIV prevalence was 18.8% (55/293). Nearly three-quarters (71/98, 72.4%) of those with a positive test result were connected with a peer navigator and enrolled in treatment. Among the first-time testers, having multiple sexual partners (2-3 sexual partners: adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 2.44, 95% CI 1.08-5.50; 4 or above sexual partners: aOR 3.55, 95% CI 1.18-10.68) and reporting inconsistent condom use in the previous 3 months (aOR 7.95, 95% CI 3.66-17.26) were both associated with an HIV-positive result. An inverse dose response relationship between lifetime HIV testing volume and HIV prevalence was also observed in this study (χ2 3=55.0; P<.001). Conclusions: The Easy Test model reached a larger portion of first-time testers, many who reported higher risk sexual behaviors. This highlights the potential for an internet-based self-test model to increase access to HIV treatment services for HIV-positive MSM in China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere11854
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Volume21
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank all the study participants and peer educators who took part in this study. This study was supported by AHF China Program (2017-P-001); National Science and Technology Major Project Research of the 13th Five-Year (2018ZX10101001-001-003); and National Natural Science Foundation of China (81872674).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Xia Jin, Junjie Xu, M Kumi Smith, Dong Xiao, Erica R Rapheal, Xiangfei Xiu, Zhengwei Ding, Yang Zhang, Yang Jie, Ying Liao, Ningxiao Cao, Hao Wu, Yugang Bao.

Keywords

  • China
  • HIV
  • Internet
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)

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