Acceptability of digital vending machines to access STI and HIV tests in two UK cities.
OBJECTIVES: Prompt HIV and STI diagnosis and treatment is a public health priority and relies on accessible testing. Technology-based approaches to distribute test kits have the potential to increase access to testing. We evaluated the acceptability and uptake of vending machines in publicly available settings in Brighton and Hove (BH) and Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG), to distribute HIV rapid self-test and STI self-sample kits.
METHODS: Seven machines were installed in BH and four in BNSSG. User characteristics, proportion of kits returned and test results, taken from the machine database and clinic records, combined with online questionnaires completed by self-recruited users and analysed using Stata and SPSS.
RESULTS: 2536 kits were dispensed over 12 months (April 2022 to March 2023). The STI self-sample kits were most popular (74% of vends). 78% of kits dispensed were among users aged 16-35 years and 56% identified as male. 68% and 59% of users had either not tested in the last 12 months or never tested for HIV and STIs, respectively. 51% of STI kits were returned via post, lower than the local online service (65%). 208 users completed questionnaires. Convenience, desire for instant access and increased confidentiality were the most common reasons for using machines. 92% of respondents thought the machines were user-friendly and 97% would recommend the service. Concerns about safety and privacy while using the machine were reported by 42% and 66% of respondents.
CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that vending machines are an acceptable and effective means of accessing infrequent or never testers in the general population and can act as a horizontal intervention to tackle HIV and STIs. Research is needed to understand optimal machine locations to assure privacy and safety along with the long-term impact on sexual health services.
- Published version
JournalSexually Transmitted Infections
Department affiliated with
- BSMS Publications
- Global Health and Infection Publications
InstitutionUniversity of Sussex
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