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Researchers in Montréal test if a smartphone application is an answer for the shortage of HIV self-tests in Canada.
We are extremely lucky to live in an era when HIV is considered to be a chronic condition that is treatable and manageable by available pharmaceuticals. When treatment is available, there should be no undiagnosed HIV patient. Nevertheless, a few Canadian populations still have high undiagnosed HIV rates. These populations include homosexuals, narcotics addicts, indigenous populations, and certain immigrant groups. One of the reasons for the high percentage of undiagnosed individuals is a shortage of efficient and effective HIV self-test methods.
Although the World Health Organization endorsed making an HIV self-test more available to the public two years ago, they have yet to be approved in Canada.
Recently, Canadian researchers developed HIVSmart!, which is an application that can be operated using a smartphone or a tablet. Their motivation was to create a simple and confidential HIV self-test that would be easy to use and available in different languages.
They published their first-of-its-kind study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. The study tested the usage of HIVSmart! in combination with a saliva in-home HIV self-test in 450 homosexual participants in the settings of a private health clinic. The application explained to the participants how to perform the HIV self-test on their own, provided clarifications about the test results, and connected a connection with a healthcare professional when needed.
Almost 100% of the participants successfully used HIVSmart!. Many of the participants found the application useful. Laboratory confirmation tests also found HIVSmart! accurate in delivering results, allowing same-day connections to a physician.
The study results strongly support promoting HIVSmart! as an HIV self-test and making it available to the crowds. In this manner, “HIV-invisible” Canadians could gain more access to care and save their lives.
Written by Marina Chemerovski-Glikman, PhD
Reference: Pant Pai N, Smallwood M, Desjardins L, Goyette A, Birkas KG, Vassal AF, Joseph L, Thomas R. An Unsupervised Smart App-Optimized HIV Self-Testing Program in Montreal, Canada: Cross-Sectional Study, J Med Internet Res, 2018