Perceptions and attitudes towards acceptability of HIV self-testing among female sex workers in Selibe Phikwe, Botswana
Background: Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 71% of the global burden of HIV infection. For the general population of Botswana, the estimated HIV prevalence is 18.5%; for female sex workers it is 61.9%. This study explored and documented female sex workers’ perceptions and attitudes towards the acceptability of HIV self-testing in Selibe Phikwe, north-eastern Botswana.
Methods: Purposive convenience sampling and snowballing approaches were used to recruit 17 participants into the study which was carried out in collaboration with a community-based organisation, the Silence Kills Support Group. Two focus group discussions and five in-depth interviews were conducted. Information was collected on female sex workers’ awareness of HIV self-testing, their willingness to use it, their preferred distribution model, and their preferred test kit. Themes and subthemes that emerged were interpreted based on the Integrated Behavioural Model.
Results: HIV self-testing (HIVST) was not known to most participants. Participants expressed negative attitude towards HIVST due to a lack of knowledge and confidence to carry out self-testing independently. Participants preferred facility-based services and a blood test over HIVST. Inadequate post-test counselling and lack of assisted HIVST were among their major concerns. Raising community awareness of HIVST through education was suggested.
Conclusion: Improving the uptake of HIVST will require community sensitization, the availability of counselling services, close follow-ups, and the introduction of assisted HIVST approaches.
Keywords: facility-based services, female sex workers, HIV, post-test counselling