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“There is such a thing as asking for trouble”: taking rapid HIV testing to gay venues is fraught with challenges


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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