A survey from Thailand noted that there is room for growth in HIV testing and identified the factors associated with testing.
In order to boost uptake of HIV testing, culturally appropriate programs that address HIV risk perception and offer accurate information on HIV testing and infection may be viable solutions, according to new study findings.
The researchers of the study highlighted the importance of implementing such solutions that could increase testing uptake after they surveyed more than 2000 men and women in Thailand, finding that nearly half (45%) of respondents had been tested for HIV and a similar amount (48.3%) reported that they intended to get tested.
Survey responses indicated that respondents were likely to not get tested if they thought they had little (13.9%) to no (82.8%) risk of contracting HIV. Meanwhile, the most common reason for getting tested was routine medical checkup (35.8%) followed by use of antenatal care (35.3%).
Factors that drove respondents to get tested were availability of local testing facilities (32.5%), free testing (31.0%), and anonymous testing (30.6%).
Those who reported being tested were more likely to know someone with HIV (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.38), have a personal of HIV (AOR = 1.81), be more knowledgeable about HIV (AOR = 1.42), and know where to get tested (AOR = 4.57). They were also more likely to be more sexually experienced (AOR = 2.23), have a history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (AOR = 1.75), and be married (AOR = 2.37).
Intention to get HIV tested was also influenced by sexual experience (AOR = 1.66), history of STIs (AOR = 1.75), knowing someone who has HIV (AOR = 1.38), and having a personal risk of HIV (AOR = 2.34). Additionally, these respondents were more likely to have perception that HIV prevalence is increasing in Thailand (AOR = 1.22) and to have previously been tested (AOR = 1.89).
According to the researchers, sexual experience and history of STIs being associated with HIV testing experience and intention to get tested “could reflect the increased demand for sexual reproductive health services (SRH) upon initiating sexual activity (for the association with sexual experience) and positive attitudes toward HIV testing (for the association with intention to test).”
All participants were between the ages of 15 and 59 years. Notably, younger participants were more than 2.5 times as likely to get tested than older participants (AOR = 2.78). The finding is significant, as the researchers noted that there have been changes in the sexual behaviors of youth in the country and those aged 15 to 24 years account for 35% of global new HIV infections annually.
“Changes in sexual norms among Thailand’s youth include earlier sexual debut for both males and females, more lifetime sexual partners, and greater acceptance of adolescent premarital sex,” they wrote. “Correspondingly, the rates for unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among Thai adolescents over the past 15 years have similarly increased. It is therefore critical to monitor the HIV epidemic in the general Thai population through effective and widespread HIV testing programs.”
Musumari P, Techasrivichien T, Srithanaviboonchai K, Tangmunkongvorakul A, Ono-Kihara M, Kihara M. Factors associated with HIV testing and intention to test for HIV among the general population of Nonthaburi Privonce, Thailand. PLoS One. Published online August 14, 2020. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0237393.