Montreal researchers develop at-home HIV app

A group of researchers in Montreal have developed an app which allows users to have access to HIV testing from their own homes, according to a recent study.

However, the app, known as HIVSMART, won’t be available for Canadians to use until tests are approved in Canada.

During the initial development phases of the app, researchers from the McGill University Health Centre and a Montreal health clinic conducted a study that involved 451 participants in 2016 and 2017.

Since HIV self-test kits aren’t permitted in homes just yet, men between the age of 18 and 73, who have had intercourse with other men, had to take the test at Clinique Médicale L’Actuel, a private, sexual health clinic specializing in the testing and treatment of HIV.

As part of the study, participants had to take saliva tests and were given a tablet with the app. The app then encrypts the data and takes them through the process of an HIV test.

The results showed that 0.7% of participants that took part in the tests had been infected with HIV.

The study noted that the test is as accurate at identifying HIV-negative results as traditional testing methods.

HIV app can improve engagement

Dr. Rejean Thomas, a co-author of the study, who is also the executive director of Clinique Médicale L’Actuel, said in a statement that the app was “feasible” and “accepted” among participants.

She also said that the app could help “improve engagement and expedite rapid linkages to care”.

In Canada, gay men, injecting drug users, indigenous people and immigrants are the populations most affected by HIV.

“The HIVSmart!-optimized, self-testing strategy could be adapted and contextualized to many at-risk populations within Canada and worldwide, thereby maximizing its public health impact,” Dr. Thomas said.

The World Health Organisation has also recommended that countries start using digital strategies as a way to eliminate and reduce HIV infections.

Written by Islam Soliman