BackgroundHIV testing is an essential gateway to HIV prevention and treatment thus controlling the HIV epidemic. More innovative interventions are needed to increase HIV testing among men who have sex with men (MSM) since their testing rate is still low. We proposed an online HIV test results exchange mechanism whereby the one without a certified online HIV report will be asked to test HIV for exchanging HIV report with others. The exchange mechanism is developed as an extension to the existing online HIV testing service system. Through the extended system, MSM can obtain certified online HIV reports and exchange their reports with friends via WeChat. This study aims to assess effectiveness of the exchange mechanism to increase the HIV testing rate among MSM.
MethodsThis study will use a cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) design. Participants are recruited based on the unit of individual social network, the sender and the receivers of the HIV report. An individual social network is composed of one sender (ego) and one or more receivers (alters). In this study, MSM in an HIV testing clinic are recruited as potential egos and forwarded online reports to their WeChat friends voluntarily. Friends are invited to participate by report links and become alters. Ego and alters serve as a cluster and are randomized to the group using the certified online HIV report with exchange mechanism (intervention group) or without exchange mechanism (control group). Alters are the intervention targeting participants. The primary outcome is HIV testing rate. Other outcomes are sexual transmitted infections, sexual behaviors, HIV testing norms, stigma, risk perception and HIV report delivery. The outcomes will be assessed at baseline and follow-up questionnaires. Analysis will be according to intention to treat approach and using mixed-effect models with networks and individuals as random effects.
DiscussionThis is the first study to evaluate the effectiveness of an HIV test result exchange mechanism to increase the HIV testing among MSM. This assessment of the intervention will also provide scientific evidence on other potential effects. Findings from this study will yield insights for sustainability driven by communities' intrinsic motivation. Trail registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03984136. Registered 12 June 2019.