HIV self-testing implementation, distribution and use among female sex workers in Cotonou, Benin: a qualitative evaluation of acceptability and feasibility
BACKGROUND: In Benin, the burden of HIV is disproportionately high among female sex workers (FSWs). HIV testing and knowledge of status are starting points for HIV treatment and prevention interventions. Despite the importance given to testing services in HIV control, its uptake among FSWs remains suboptimal in Benin. HIV self-testing (HIVST) may be useful for increasing testing rates in FSWs. METHODS: We conducted a pilot study of the distribution of saliva-based HIVST among FSWs in Cotonou and its surroundings, Benin. The HIVST promotion and distribution model included three complementary strategies: community-based, facility-based and secondary distribution. In this qualitative study, we explored the elements influencing HIVST implementation, distribution and use among FSWs. We assessed HIVST acceptability and feasibility in this population. We conducted 29 semi-structured individual interviews with FSWs. Data were interpreted with a thematic analysis method, using the Theoretical Domains Framework. RESULTS: Only two FSWs (6.9%) were aware of HIVST before participating in the study. All participants were interested in using HIVST if available in Benin. Many advantages of HIVST were mentioned, including: autonomy, privacy, accessibility, time saving, and the fact that it is a painless test. Barriers to the use of HIVST included: the fear of unreliability, the lack of psychological support and medical follow-up and the possibility of result dissimulation. Participants thought HIVST was easy to use without assistance. HIVST enabled linkage to care for a few FSWs in denial of their HIV-positive status. No case of suicide or violence associated with HIVST was reported. HIVST secondary distribution within FSWs social network was well received. FSWs' boyfriends and clients showed interest in using the device. Some FSWs reported using HIVST to practice serosorting or to guide their decisions regarding condom use. CONCLUSIONS: Our study shows a very high level of acceptability for HIVST among FSWs in Cotonou and its surroundings. Results also demonstrate the feasibility of implementing HIVST distribution in Benin. HIVST should be implemented in Benin quickly and free of charge for all individuals at risk of HIV. HIVST offer should be integrated with comprehensive sexual health and prevention services.
Date de publication (Zotero)