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Innovative interventions increase HIV testing rates

Terrence Higgins Trust - Glasgow Caledonian University

The project: Glasgow Caledonian University research to increase HIV testing in vulnerable populations.

The challenge: Access to and uptake of HIV testing has increased significantly over the past few years. However, those with the highest risk of infection need to test regularly. Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) have highlighted an urgent need for innovative and diverse ways of increasing HIV testing amongst those at high risk of infection.

The purpose: Receiving a negative HIV test result offers an opportunity for a timely and meaningful intervention to help men reduce sexual risk taking. GCU’s Professor Paul Flowers is leading a £127,000 project funded by the National Institute for Health Research – Health Technology Assessment, into the clinical effectiveness of behaviour change interventions to reduce risky sexual behaviour after a negative HIV test in men who have sex with men (MSM).

GCU also works closely with the Terrence Higgins Trust to encourage HIV testing in local communities.

The people and partners: The National Institute for Health Research – Health Technology Assessment is funding current work, while GCU also has ongoing partnerships with organisations including the Terrence Higgins Trust.

The proposed outcomes: The current study aims to establish the clinical effectiveness of behaviour change interventions to reduce risky sexual behaviour after a negative HIV test in MSM; how interventions work, for whom, why, and in which contexts and settings in relation to a variety of outcomes (e.g. condom use, HIV knowledge, HIV incidence); and provide clear direction of how interventions can be delivered.

GCU research was the first programmatic attempt to understand barriers to testing after the rollout of effective treatment for HIV in the populations most at risk of HIV. Our data sets are unique in enabling an analysis of change over time.

The research has shown that despite the success of medical developments in treating HIV, psychological and social barriers to testing remain core reasons why people do not test. Uniquely, we proposed that whilst increased testing should be recommended to make the most of effective treatments, it also had to address HIV related stigma, be culturally appropriate, and be offered within diverse settings.

The impact: Our research into HIV testing has led to impacts on health policy (WHO and NICE guidelines) and services relating to HIV testing amongst vulnerable populations across Europe, and particularly, Scotland. The policies related to the frequency of HIV testing, increases in sites available for testing, and the scope of interventions to promote testing.

These policies have contributed to significant increases in HIV testing, and a reduction in undiagnosed HIV infection, HIV related ill-health and AIDS deaths. For people living with HIV, this has enabled improved quality of life, better health and contributions to society.

This case study was published in December 2014.



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