Finding HIV in Hard to Reach Populations: Mobile HIV Testing and Geospatial Mapping in Umlazi Township, Durban, South Africa

November 2015 - Combination Prevention

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Bassett, I.V., Regan, S., Mbonambi, H., et al. AIDS and Behavior (September 2015), 19(10): 1888–1895.

To optimize the effectiveness of community-based mobile HIV testing by the iThembalabantu Clinic in Umlazi Township, South Africa, the authors evaluated the number and characteristics of the population being tested during site visits. From July to November 2011, the researchers collected programmatic data from adults who self-presented for testing at the mobile HIV testing units at malls, taxi stands, and markets in Umlazi (mobile testers) and at the iThembalabantu HIV clinic (IPHC testers). The authors found that the mobile testing units attracted hard-to-reach populations, specifically men, who are less likely than women to seek HIV testing in clinic-based programs. Mobile testing also attracted proportionally more young people, which is especially important, since their HIV prevalence is high and increases rapidly with age. The sites demonstrating the highest HIV prevalence were supermarkets and taxi ranks. Almost a quarter of mobile clients sought HIV testing more than five kilometers from their homes, indicating that some people prefer being tested for HIV in more remote locations where they will not be recognized. The authors concluded that using mobile units in the highest-yield (hot spot) locations could dramatically increase the number of HIV cases detected, particularly among hard-to-reach populations such as men and young people.

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