Researchers explore the acceptability of delivering HIV-positive results by phone

As the HIV epidemic enters its fourth decade, men who have sex with men (MSM) make up a disproportionate number of new HIV diagnoses in the United States. A report from the CDC revealed that MSM represented nearly 70 percent of new HIV diagnoses in 2017, despite only constituting approximately 3.6 percent of the general population. Improving HIV testing rates and increasing early detection among this key population is critical to ending the epidemic.

Stigma, healthcare access issues, and geographic isolation are major barriers to HIV testing and treatment. For a paper published in the journal AIDS and Behavior, a team led by CUNY SPH doctoral student Alexa D’Angelo analyzed interviews from 50 MSM about their experience receiving a positive HIV test result via phone through their participation in a research study that included remote HIV testing.

A few participants indicated drawbacks to phone-based HIV test result delivery, but overall, respondents reported favorably, praising the support and information provided by study staff. Participants were able to emotionally process their test results privately and not in a clinical setting, but were also able to receive support and referral to care from study staff.

The paper also offers readers the phone delivery protocol created by the study, in the hopes that it might be useful for future HIV-testing studies and programs.

“The protocol was created by team member Caitlin MacCrate and Together 5,000 co-investigator Dr. David Pantalone, to ensure that participants were safe during the process, and well-informed about their next steps,” D’Angelo says. “The subject of remote delivery of HIV results takes on renewed urgency in the context of COVID-19, as telehealth becomes increasingly important for ensuring the safety of patients.”