Background: Countries around the world seek innovative ways of closing their remaining gaps towards the target of 95% of people living with HIV (PLHIV) knowing their status by 2030. Offering kits allowing HIV self-testing (HIVST) in private might help close these gaps.
Methods: We analysed the cost, use and linkage to onward care of 11 HIVST kit distribution models alongside the Self-Testing Africa Initiative’s distribution of 2.2 million HIVST kits in South Africa in 2018/2019. Outcomes were based on telephonic surveys of 4% of recipients; costs on a combination of micro-costing, time-and-motion and expenditure analysis. Costs were calculated from the provider perspective in 2019 US$, as incremental costs in integrated and full costs in standalone models.
Results: HIV positivity among kit recipients was 4%–23%, with most models achieving 5%–6%. Linkage to confirmatory testing and antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation for those screening positive was 19%–78% and 2%–72% across models. Average costs per HIVST kit distributed varied between $4.87 (sex worker model) and $18.07 (mobile integration model), with differences largely driven by kit volumes. HIVST kit costs (at $2.88 per kit) and personnel costs were the largest cost items throughout. Average costs per outcome increased along the care cascade, with the sex worker network model being the most cost-effective model across metrics used (cost per kit distributed/recipient screening positive/confirmed positive/ initiating ART). Cost per person confirmed positive for HIVST was higher than standard HIV testing.
Conclusion: HIV self-test distribution models in South Africa varied widely along four characteristics: distribution volume, HIV positivity, linkage to care and cost. Volume was highest in models that targeted public spaces with high footfall (flexible community, fixed point and transport hub distribution), followed by workplace models. Transport hub, workplace and sex worker models distributed kits in the least costly way. Distribution via index cases at facility as well as sex worker network distribution identified the highest number of PLHIV at lowest cost