Mailing patients free HIV tests increases detection rates, study finds

Sending free HIV tests to the homes of high-risk men improved rates of infection detection, according to a CDC study published Nov. 18 in JAMA Internal Medicine. 

From March to August 2015, researchers used online advertisements to recruit 2,665 U.S. men to participate in the study. Study participants were 18 or older, reported having sex with other men and had never tested positive for HIV. Researchers sent 54 percent of the men four free HIV self-test kits, while the remaining men received usual care. Researchers also polled participants via quarterly online surveys.

Overall, 25 HIV infections were identified among men receiving self-tests, compared to just 11 HIV infections in the group receiving typical care. The self-test group also tested for HIV more often, with 77.6 percent taking a test three or more times during the trial, compared to 22 percent of control participants. Thirty-four infections were also identified among friends of study participants who shared the self-tests. Of the participants diagnosed with HIV, over 70 percent sought treatment. 

"Distribution of HIV self-tests provides a worthwhile mechanism to increase awareness of HIV infection and prevent transmission," researchers concluded.

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