Men who have sex with men (MSM) has become the group with the fastest growing HIV epidemic in China. Since many Chinese MSM are conducting HIV self-testing, we aimed to determine the rate of HIV care seeking after self-testing, examine characteristics of "seekers" compared to "non-seekers," and explore factors associated with HIV care-seeking behaviour.
A cross-sectional study design was used and an online survey was conducted in Beijing, China in 2016, among users of a popular Chinese gay networking smart phone application. Chi-square test was used to compare characteristics of those who sought HIV care ("seekers") and those who did not ("non-seekers"). Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to assess factors associated with HIV care seeking.
Among 21,785 screened, 2383 participants (10.9%) were included in the study. A total of 380 participants (15.9%) reported seeking HIV care after HIV self-testing while 2003 (84.1%) did not. Lack of knowledge of the "window period" (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 0.68, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] = 0.47-0.97, P = 0.04) was associated with reduced odds of seeking HIV care, while lower monthly income (AOR = 1.29, 95% CI = 1.03-1.62, P = 0.03) and obtaining HIV self-testing kits from health facilities (AOR = 2.40, 95% CI = 1.81-3.17, P < 0.001), and non-governmental organizations (AOR = 2.44, 95% CI = 1.79-3.34, P < 0.001) was associated with increased odds of seeking HIV care. Among those who sought HIV care, a large majority (92.4%) had non-reactive HIV self-testing results. Only 29 out of 265 with reactive, uncertain, or unknown results sought HIV care.
We found a very low rate of HIV care seeking among our sample of urban Chinese MSM. The observation that most with reactive, uncertain, or unknown results did not seek HIV care is a cause for concern. These people should be paid more attention and helped to enter the care cascade. Our findings highlight that interventions aimed at improving linkage to care after HIV self-testing are urgently needed. However, further study is required to inform the design and implementation of future interventions aiming to encourage HIV care-seeking behaviour.