Community News

Brighton Sauna trial new HIV testing vending machine

Besi Besemar August 11, 2017

and Gillian Dean

Brighton Sauna is the first venue in Brighton and Hove to trial new HIV testing digital vending machine.

Through the Department of Health HIV Prevention Innovation Fund (2016-17), The Martin Fisher Foundation have established a unique team of vending machine manufacturers, designers, clinicians and researchers to develop and evaluate a ‘next generation’ touch screen vending machine to dispense Biosure self-testing kits.

The Biosure HIV self-test is a CE marked 3rd generation HIV-1/HIV-2 antibody test which requires only a single drop of blood and gives a result within minutes, rather than sending a sample away to a laboratory for analysis and waiting for up to 1 week.

It became available in 2015 through online stores and at some clinics, but is expensive (ÂŁ29.95), requires payment through a traceable credit card or bank account, or requires a person-person interaction to perform.

In contrast, this project will enable MSM (men who have sex with men) to obtain the HIV tests for free, in a discrete and anonymous manner whilst visiting the Brighton Sauna.

The prototype vending machine was placed in the Brighton Sauna on the June 16 2017. A previous survey of the sauna clients showed 93% would consider collecting an HIV self-test from the sauna.

HIV self-tests have been available at the Brighton Sauna since National HIV Testing week (2016) with high levels of acceptability amongst staff and clients. Most men report the testing procedure was easy to do and they would recommend this type of test to a friend.

The Digital Vending Machine (DVM): A bespoke wall mounted machine with a large digital interactive screen is in the foyer of the Brighton Sauna. When not in use clear visual messages about HIV testing, as well as tweets from previous testers automatically scroll across the screen.

Accessing a Test: When a client engages with the machine they are prompted to have their mobile to hand, and dial their phone number in via the touch screen. They then receive an SMS confirmation code via their phones which they type into the vending machine to release a test. The clients then give basic anonymous demographic information (age, HIV testing history and whether they are residents of B&H). The kit is then dispensed.

The Kit: The kit contains the Biosure self-test box, separate instructions for what to do after the test, depending on the result, and a contact details card outlining how to access support before, during or after the testing procedure.

Taking the Test: Clients will usually choose to take the testing kit away to perform later, although the Sauna does have the capacity to support use on the premises. Venue staff have undergone comprehensive training regarding HIV testing and the procedure to follow if a client has a reactive test. They will be able to offer appropriate support and advice, and signpost the patient to the Sexual Health Department at the Royal Sussex County Hospital for test confirmation and ongoing care.

Follow-up: Once the kit is taken away it is difficult to measure exactly how many are used and what results are obtained. In order to gather as much information as possible, users will receive a link via SMS messaging to an anonymous questionnaire on Survey Monkey with questions about the test.

Users will have the opportunity to share their experiences via Twitter and Facebook, with ‘tweeted’ comments appearing on the ‘home screen’ of the DVM, thus creating a live experience for future testers and the sense of a ‘testing community’.

Next steps: MFF aim to roll this model out to more mainstream venues across the city in order to improve access to HIV tests and close the ‘undiagnosed gap’ for the wider MSM (Men who have sex with men) community.

If evaluation of wider roll out is encouraging then MFF would foresee digital vending machines dispensing HIV self-tests being made available on a wider scale to other areas and populations across the UK.

The Martin Fisher Foundation (MFF) is a grassroots charity founded on the pioneering achievements of Professor Martin Fisher, whose vision and passion remains at the centre of the Foundations work.

By building on partnerships across the city, the charity brings together stakeholders working towards clear goals.

In December 2016 the Foundation realised their first goal when Brighton & Hove became the first UK city to be awarded UNAIDS Fast Track City (FTC) status.

MFF and FTC aim for ‘Towards Zero’ new HIV infections, which will be achieved in part by reducing undiagnosed HIV through improving access to HIV testing.

Their strategic goal is that everyone in Brighton & Hove is aware of their HIV status, and 100% of sexually active men (MSM) test for HIV at least annually.