Could Self-Tests Curb HIV in Kenyan Truckers?

Truck drivers in sub-Saharan Africa have a high incidence of HIV. To better understand those figures, Matthew Romo — research scientist at the CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health at the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy — has been studying the use and benefits of a relatively new way for the drivers to check their HIV status: a rapid self-administered oral test.

Romo focused on truck drivers because their job requirements sometimes take them across borders and facilitate spread of the disease. They can also be harder to test because their job keeps them on the move. To ameliorate that latter point, testing facilities have been established along many truck routes, but drivers still remain largely untested. 

“I have always been interested in self-care and how individuals can have more control over their health,” Romo said. “HIV self-testing might be an attractive option for individuals who may not be comfortable seeing a health care provider for an HIV test.” The goal is for regular use of self-testing to reduce the transmission of HIV. 

One of his co-authored studies, published in AIDS and Behavior, found that HIV self-testing is viable and acceptable among truck drivers in Kenya compared to a provider-administered test, but obstacles and risks exist. Individuals might conduct the tests incorrectly, resulting in inaccurate outcomes. And a lack of professional support, especially in the case of an HIV-positive result, could be psychologically traumatic. If given the chance to ask questions, however, a self-test seemed to be a preferred method with over 56 percent of study participants stating they would use that option. 

In another co-authored study, published in AIDS Care, Romo found that when drivers were given the option of HIV self-testing, they took advantage of it. But more research is needed to better understand the most effective ways to get the truckers to use the tests. “It will be important to introduce this new technology through health care workers that are trained to answer questions and can supervise people using the test for the first time,” Romo said.

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Explore This Work
“Offering Self-administered Oral HIV Testing as a Choice to Truck Drivers in Kenya”

Work By
Matthew Romo (Research Scientist, CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health ) | Profile 1

Colleges and Schools
Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy 

Bonus Content
“Study examines HIV testing preferences” (CUNY SPH News) “Are HIV self-tests an economically feasible method of testing?” (CUNY SPH News)

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