Many people in sub-Saharan Africa are accepting voluntary counseling and testing for HIV at home, showing the potential this method has of dramatically increasing awareness of HIV status among people who are undiagnosed.

The finding came from a study conducted by international researchers and was published in PLOS Medicine this week.

The team, led by Kalpana Sabapathy, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Imperial College London and the medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), analyzed studies that explained how interventions provided HIV testing at African homes.

They also set out to identify the proportion of people who accepted the testing out of everyone that was offered a home-based HIV test.

The experts found 21 reports (with a total of 524,867 people) related to HIV-testing at home from 5 countries in Africa:

  • Uganda
  • South Africa
  • Kenya
  • Zambia
  • Malawi

One particular report found that home-based supervised oral HIV self-testing in Malawi, a low income country with high prevalence, is efficient and reliable.

Voluntary counseling and HIV testing at home was accepted by 58.1% to 99.7% of people overall (an average of 83.3% in the pooled analysis).

Women and men had the same probability to accept testing at home (81.5% vs. 78.5%). They also discovered that 40 to 70% of the people that were diagnosed as HIV-positive were previously undiagnosed.

The findings indicate that this method can help people learn their HIV status who would otherwise not find out. Voluntary counseling and HIV testing at home did not provide any negative outcomes in any of the examined reports.

Health service providers as well as governments can successfully increase access to HIV treatment and prevention with voluntary counseling and HIV testing at home.

The experts wrote:

“A key finding of our review is that [voluntary counselling and testing for HIV at home] is able to reach wide sections of communities in a diverse range of contexts and settings.”

People’s awareness of their HIV status, particularly those who were previously undiagnosed in sub-Saharan Africa, could significantly rise with the help of voluntary counseling and home based HIV testing, the authors pointed out.

The researchers concluded:

“Voluntary counseling and testing for HIV at home] is a gateway to accessing care early, and the benefits for individual and public health, both for treatment and prevention, make it an invaluable tool in the fight against HIV.”

Written by Sarah Glynn