Vending machines in commercial sex venues to increase HIV self-testing among men who have sex with men

Chrysovalantis Stafylis, Lauren J. Natoli, Jamie A. Murkey, Kristie K. Gordon, Sean D. Young, Mark R. McGrath, Jeffrey D. Klausner


Background: Commercial sex venues (CSV), bathhouses and sex clubs, have a long history of serving a high-risk population. In those facilities, patrons engage in multiple sexual encounters and often in high-risk sexual behaviors. Designing prevention interventions specifically for CSVs could be an effective way to increase testing and control HIV transmission.
Methods: In collaboration with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), our team distributed free HIV self-test kits using vending machines located at two CSVs in Los Angeles, California. Test kit dispensing rate was monitored remotely. Patrons receiving a test kit were surveyed regarding their testing experience, test result and follow up. Linkage to care was offered to participants.
Results: During 18 months, 1,398 kits were dispensed. The survey was completed by 110 patrons (response rate =7.9%). Among those who reported that they used the test kit (n=96), 17 (17.7%) participants reported a first-time reactive HIV result. At the time of the survey, six participants with reactive results reported seeking confirmatory testing and linkage to care and four had initiated treatment. Two participants requested linkage-to-care assistance. Participants reported valuing the privacy and convenience of the vending machine but were skeptical on the accuracy of their result. The startup cost, including the purchase of two vending machines, was $10,000 and the recurring cost (monitoring, test kits, personnel) was $33.81 per kit vended.
Conclusions: While survey response was low, our results demonstrate that an intervention using vending machines and HIV self-test kits in CSVs was acceptable, feasible, used by the CSV patrons and can help identify new HIV cases.