Background: HIV self-testing (HIVST) has been shown to be acceptable, feasible and effective in increasing HIV testing uptake. Novel testing strategies are critical to achieving the UNAIDS target of 95% HIV-positive diagnosis by 2025 in South Africa and globally.
Methods: We modelled the impact of six HIVST kit distribution modalities (community fixed-point, taxi ranks, workplace, partners of primary healthcare (PHC) antiretroviral therapy (ART) patients), partners of pregnant women, primary PHC distribution) in South Africa over 20 years (2020–2039), using data collected alongside the Self-Testing Africa Initiative. We modelled two annual distribution scenarios: (A) 1million HIVST kits (current) or (B) up to 6.7 million kits. Incremental economic costs (2019 US$) were estimated from the provider perspective; assumptions on uptake and screening positivity were based on surveys of a subset of kit recipients and modelled using the Thembisa model. The Cost-effectiveness of each distribution modality compared with the status-quo distribution configuration was estimated as cost per life-year saved (estimated from life years lost due to AIDS) and optimised using a fractional factorial design.
Results: The largest impact resulted from secondary HIVST distribution to partners of ART patients at PHC (life years saved (LYS): 119 000 (scenario A); 393 000 (scenario B)). However, it was one of the least cost-effective modalities (A: $1394/LYS; B: $4162/LYS). Workplace distribution was cost-saving ($52–$76million) and predicted to have a moderate epidemic impact (A: 40 000 LYS; B: 156 000 LYS). An optimised scale-up to 6.7million tests would result in an almost threefold increase in LYS compared with a scale-up of status-quo distribution (216 000 vs 75 000 LYS).
Conclusion: Optimisation-informed distribution has the potential to vastly improve the impact of HIVST. Using this approach, HIVST can play a key role in improving the longterm health impact of investment in HIVST.