Background: Up to half of all new HIV cases in Los Angeles may be caused by the 20-30% of men who have sex with men (MSM) with unrecognized HIV infection. MSM are at higher risk for being sero-unaware and might benefit from increased access to novel testing methods, such as the recently FDA-approved OraQuick In-Home HIV Test.
Methods: From July-November 2013, we examined the feasibility of implementing a voucher program for free OraQuick tests targeting high-risk MSM in Los Angeles. We determined feasibility based on: (1) the establishment of a voucher redemption and third-party payment system, (2) the use of community-based organizations (CBOs) to disseminate vouchers, and (3) an anonymous telephone survey collecting user demographics, sexual behavior, prior testing practices and self-testing experience. We defined high-risk MSM as those with > 1 partner, untested for HIV in the past 6 months and with inconsistent condom use. We calculated descriptive statistics using Microsoft Excel and STATA 12.
Results: We partnered with Walgreens to create a voucher and third-party reimbursement system for free OraQuick tests. Of the 641 vouchers supplied to CBOs and other distributors, 274 (42.7%) went to clients; 50 (18.2%) clients redeemed a voucher. Forty-one (82%) of 50 voucher-redeemers were surveyed: 10 (24.4%) were high-risk MSM. Three (30%) high-risk MSM reported being comfortable or very comfortable while redeeming their voucher. Seven (70%) reported being likely or very likely to use a voucher again. Three (100%) of 3 respondents newly testing HIV-positive sought medical care.
Conclusions: Developing a voucher system to promote HIV self-testing with linkage-to-care was feasible. Our survey suggests that high-risk MSM will likely use a voucher again, but their comfort level during redemption needs improvement. Further research on providing access to free HIV self-test kits through different methods like the US mail or vending machines is warranted.