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“There is such a thing as asking for trouble”: taking rapid HIV testing to gay venues is fraught with challenges
  1. Audrey Prost1,
  2. Mathias Chopin1,
  3. Alan McOwan2,
  4. Gillian Elam3,
  5. Julie Dodds1,
  6. Neil Macdonald3,
  7. John Imrie1
  1. 1Centre for Sexual Health & HIV Research, Royal Free and University College London Medical School, Mortimer Market Centre, London, UK
  2. 2The Victoria Clinic for Sexual Health, Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK
  3. 3Health Protection Agency, HIV & STI Department, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr A Prost
 MRC Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK; audrey-p{at}


Objectives: To explore the feasibility and acceptability of offering rapid HIV testing to men who have sex with men in gay social venues.

Methods: Qualitative study with in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Interview transcripts were analysed for recurrent themes. 24 respondents participated in the study. Six gay venue owners, four gay service users and one service provider took part in in-depth interviews. Focus groups were conducted with eight members of a rapid HIV testing clinic staff and five positive gay men.

Results: Respondents had strong concerns about confidentiality and privacy, and many felt that HIV testing was “too serious” an event to be undertaken in social venues. Many also voiced concerns about issues relating to post-test support and behaviour, and clinical standards. Venue owners also discussed the potential negative impact of HIV testing on social venues.

Conclusion: There are currently substantial barriers to offering rapid HIV tests to men who have sex with men in social venues. Further work to enhance acceptability must consider ways of increasing the confidentiality and professionalism of testing services, designing appropriate pre-discussion and post-discussion protocols, evaluating different models of service delivery, and considering their cost-effectiveness in relation to existing services.

  • GM, gay service user
  • GUM, genitourinary medicine
  • MSM, men who have sex with men
  • NHS, National Health Service
  • SP, service provider
  • VCT, voluntary counselling and testing
  • VO, venue owner

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  • Funding: This study was funded through a grant from the Pan-London NHS HIV prevention commissioners.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • JI and AM had the original idea for the study and designed the study with GE, JD, MC and NM. AM, MC and JD facilitated the recruitment of respondents. MC collected the data, transcribed the interviews and, together with AP, carried out primary data analysis through thematic charting. JI was involved in data analysis, and is the guarantor. AP wrote the first draft of the paper and carried out further interpretation of the data. All authors commented on drafts of the paper.