Background With adolescent STI rates climbing, novel techniques for prevention must be used to stem new cases. The advent of home HIV test kits for over the counter sales in the U.S. is an efficacious way to also test youth in public venues in a quick and easy manner. The result is an underutilised tool that works as a deterrent to unprotected sex.
Methods Beginning in November 2012 after the introduction of home HIV test kits, a Harvard-trained youth AIDS expert began testing teens on the streets and at their favourite public gathering spots in Norfolk, Virginia, the city with the highest HIV/STI rates in the state. Because the oral swab technology is easy to administer with results in 20 minutes (no CLIA or lab work is necessary), the testing is popular among curious youth. No AIDS stigma exists when testing is done among peers outside hospital/clinics.
Results Over 45 public tests were administered to at least one person among groups of teens at parks, malls, at beaches and on the streets. During the 20 minutes waiting for results, the experienced tester provided medically accurate information and counselling to the teens that asked probing questions of peer concern. Youth were surprised how easy the process was and that it could be done in private with a sexual partner. In the case of two HIV-positive tests (a 16- and a 17-year old), they were immediately taken for a confirmatory blood test.
Conclusion Youth were impressed that tests were available without a doctor’s visit, a prescription, the need to be tested in a hospital or importantly, without parents’ knowledge. In every group of three or more, one adolescent was publicly tested. Immediately they used cell phones to send texts and pictures to a wider audience using favourable descriptions.