A friend to reach a Friend in need: Promising findings through the Social Network HIV Testing Strategy at AIDS Information Centre in Kampala, Uganda as presented by Mirembe R. and Nassali T. at the 14th International Virtual Conference

Background: Social Network Strategy (SNS) for HIV Testing Recruitment is based on the underlying principle that persons within the same social network who know, trust, and can exert influence on each other share the same risks and risk behaviours for HIV. SNS entails engaging people at high risk of HIV infection as well as those living with HIV/AIDS code named as “informants” to identify their peers and social contacts for HIV services. These informants provide contact details of their social networks to the health worker for follow up however, they can as well accompany them to Health facilities to access HIV services. Informants are empowered to provide basic information about HIV/AIDS to their peers and contacts to enable them embrace the services.

Materials and Methods: Male and female individuals attending the AIDS Information Centre clinic between January and December 2019 were identified as informants for SNS HIV testing after being classified as high risk. Risk was determined by one’s sexual orientation, number of sexual partners in the past 12 months, drug use among others. The individuals classified as high-risk were given basic information about HIV/AIDS and encouraged to elicit the social contacts who would be followed up for HIV testing with an assumption that they were equally likely to be at risk. HIV testing services were delivered to the elicited persons at their place of convenience; either at the health facility or in the community.
Informant and elicited social contacts’ identification information, HIV test results were recorded in registers.
We present the HIV positivity yield from the clients who were elicited and tested through SNS.

Results: Two hundred and ninety-three social contacts were elicited by 166 high-risk informants identified. 215 were notified about their risk of HIV infection; 147 of whom accepted to take an HIV test. Out of the 147 who tested, 25(17%) were newly identified as HIV positive.

Conclusion: HIV testing through Social Network Strategy delivers higher HIV positivity yield. It is effective in targeting un-diagnosed HIV positive individuals using minimum resources and should be embraced in resource constrained settings.

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