Background: Despite antiretroviral therapy (ART), incident human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) continues to rise, and sexually transmitted infections (STI) are well known for their part in HIV transmission. National guidelines recommend routine STI screening in HIV-positive individuals, but despite this, reported uptake remains low.
Methods: We implemented a nurse-led self-screening program for Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (GC) in asymptomatic HIV patients. Self-collected samples were tested for CT and GC using the GenProbe Aptima Combo 2 assay. Clinical records were reviewed for ART history, CD4 T-cell count, and plasma viral load. A screening service evaluation questionnaire was handed out.
Results: During an 8-month period, 976 screens were performed. In all, 143 infections were detected which would have been missed without the screening program. Overall prevalence of infection among men who have sex with men was 17.4%: rectal CT and GC, 9.8% (56/571) and 4.2% (24/571), respectively; urethal CT and GC, 2.6% (16/605) and 1.3% (8/605), respectively; and pharyngeal CT and GC, 1.7% (10/589) and 3.9% (23/589), respectively. Among heterosexual men and women, the rates of CT were 2.1% (3/141) and 1.5% (3/201), and there was no GC. Transient viremia was observed at the time of STI diagnosis in 6 patients on ART. All men who have sex with men and most women found self-swabbing acceptable, and most patients indicated that they would like to be offered testing in future.
Conclusion: These findings highlight the need for the introduction of similar screening approaches in HIV clinics. Self-collected specimens using sensitive and specific GC and CT nucleic acid amplification tests are a convenient and acceptable way of testing, and it may address some of the barriers to screening in this population.