Dr Liliana Rodriguez, a services design expert from the design consultancy Díptico and affiliated to the Martin Fisher Foundation, said the development of the project was underpinned by workshops with members of the LGTB community.
Professor Matteo Santin, academic lead for Healthy Futures, one of five themes for cross-cutting research and enterprise across the University of Brighton, said: “This is fantastic news and many congratulations to the team. The award recognises the impact that our research and enterprise for health has on our communities. It is wholly deserved and makes us all very proud to see this happening through the interdisciplinary collaboration between our university and the Medical School.”
Dr Vera, senior lecturer in HIV medicine at BSMS, said: “One of the Foundation’s strategic goals is to ensure everyone in Brighton & Hove is aware of their HIV status and specifically all sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM) test for HIV at least once per year.
“Brighton & Hove is home to an estimated 14,000 MSM, of whom 2,500 are already HIV positive. That leaves 11,500 needing an HIV test. In 2016 about 4,000 were tested through conventional services and third sector organisations, leaving 7,500 potentially untested. Men can be reluctant to use mainstream services and self-testing might reach those missing men, particularly if they could access kits from a vending machine in a place they frequent.
“The Brighton Sauna, visited by around 400 men a week, was one such place where staff were aware of high levels of sexual risk taking but low levels of engagement with outreach workers to discuss HIV testing.
“Uptake during the pilot (approximately 35 tests per month) was greater than from community outreach workers prior to the machine being installed (4.5 tests per month). We don’t know if the kits have actually been used, or what the results are, but we’re working on a second generation kit with smart packaging that will tell us when it’s been opened.”
Dr Dean said: “The second generation of machines are ready to be rolled out across the city with the aim of ensuring everyone is aware of their HIV status. Only then can we move towards zero new HIV infections.”