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Arguments for and against HIV self-testing

Authors Wood B, Ballenger C, Stekler J

Received 29 March 2014

Accepted for publication 26 May 2014

Published 2 August 2014 Volume 2014:6 Pages 117—126

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/HIV.S49083

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


Brian R Wood,1 Carl Ballenger,1 Joanne D Stekler1,2

1Division of Allergy and Infectious Disease, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA; 2Public Health, Seattle and King County HIV/STD Program, Seattle, WA, USA

Abstract: Approximately 60% of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals are unaware of their infection, and stigma and discrimination continue to threaten acceptance of HIV testing services worldwide. Self-testing for HIV has garnered controversy for years and the debate reignited with the approval of a point-of-care test for over-the-counter sale in the US in 2012. Here, we present arguments for and against HIV self-testing. The case in support of HIV self-testing contends that: the modality is highly acceptable, especially among the most at-risk individuals; self-testing empowers users, thus helping to normalize testing; and mutual partner testing has the potential to increase awareness of risk and avert condomless sex between discordant partners. Arguments against HIV self-testing include: cost limits access to those who need testing most; false-negative results, especially during the window period, may lead to false reassurance and could promote sex between discordant partners at the time of highest infectivity; opportunities for counseling, linkage to care, and diagnosis of other sexually transmitted infections may be missed; and self-testing leads to potential for coercion between partners. Research is needed to better define the risks of self-testing, especially as performance of the assays improves, and to delineate the benefits of programs designed to improve access to self-test kits, because this testing modality has numerous potential advantages and drawbacks.

Keywords: HIV, AIDS, self-testing, diagnosis, screening

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