As part of the rollout of HIV self-testing in Canada, the CIHR Centre for REACH 3.0 conducted a survey of front-line and community-based workers. The 308 respondents’ perspectives will help in developing a roadmap for scaling up HIV self-testing in Canada. As part of the CIHR Centre for REACH 3.0, CBRC will implement and evaluate testing options that will help reach gay, bisexual, trans, and queer guys, as well as Two-Spirit people (GBT2Q), including the undiagnosed, with the goal of reducing new HIV and sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) in our community.
Frontline and community workers are optimistic that HIV self-testing will be an important tool in ending the HIV epidemic in Canada. There was a strong desire for a national HIV self-testing policy to be created to facilitate equitable access nationwide. As we have seen with the rapid HIV point of care test, there is a patchwork of provincial and territorial systems and policies which has led to some regions being excluded from more accessible HIV testing technologies.
There was a strong belief that peer-led initiatives will be an essential component of support for HIV self-testing. As part of REACH 3.0, CBRC is currently engaged in the development of a research program studying HIV self-testing Peer Navigation. For HIV self-testing to be effective, people who receive a reactive test result need to be linked to confirmatory testing and appropriate care. Those who receive a non-reactive result need to be linked to appropriate resources for prevention of HIV and STBBIs. This could include HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), condoms, harm reduction supplies, but also needs to include access to mental health and social support services to reduce inequities.