Further detail about the HAUS research project on HIV home sampling among Africans in the UK.
In the UK people of black African heritage account for almost one third of the 96,000 people estimated to have HIV, which means that at least three out of every 100 Black African people in the UK are HIV positive. Africans are more likely than non-Africans to find out about their HIV status long after they became infected. Testing more often would help to reduce the number of people who are HIV without knowing it, and this means we need to find new, convenient ways of getting tested. This study seeks find out how best distribute HIV self-sampling kits (HIV-SSK) in health care and community services used by Black African people living in London and Glasgow.
What is self-sampling?
Self-collected specimens can be used reliably to test for HIV, and there are many groups who find it a good idea to take a sample at home and send it off to get the results confidentially (instead of say, visiting a hospital clinic to undertake an HIV test). With an HIV self-sampling kit, an individual takes a very small sample of blood from themselves (usually just by pricking their finger), and then they use the materials provided in the kit to send that sample directly to a laboratory. They are then contacted directly within a week or two with the result. The benefits of using these kits are that they don’t require special staff or services. This might mean that more use of these kits will mean that more Black African people are happy to have an HIV test.
Why are we doing this study?
We want to find out if it is appropriate to make HIV home sampling kits available to Black African people in the UK through a range of community locations, and if so, how best to go about doing it. We also want to find out how people might feel having their HIV results communicated to them in this way, and how those working in community locations might feel about distributing the kits. As a starting point, this study is testing the idea in two cities with different health systems and different proportions of Black African people in their population: London and Glasgow. If successful, this could lead to provision of test kits in many other part of the UK as well.
What is planned?
In the first part of the study, we have been consulting with relevant professionals and with Black African members of the public to find out their thoughts about the kits, and about different ways of distributing them.
In the second part of the study, we will be distributing HIV self-sampling kits in GP surgeries and community settings that serve Black African people in Glasgow and in London. We will be tracking how the kits are used, how easy it is to distribute them, and we will also find out from those who use the kits what they thought about the entire process.
Haus started in June 2014 and will finish in September 2016. If you want to find out more about the progress of the study, please revisit this website or follow us on Twitter (@HAUS_study).