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Despite large-scale efforts to diagnose people living with HIV, 54% remain undiagnosed in sub-Saharan Africa. The gap in knowledge of HIV status and uptake of follow-on services remains wide with much lower rates of HIV testing among men compared to women. Here, we design a study to investigate the effect on uptake of HIV testing and linkage into care or prevention of partner-delivered HIV self-testing alone or with an additional intervention among male partners of pregnant women.
A phase II, adaptive, multi-arm, multi-stage cluster randomised trial, randomising antenatal clinic (ANC) days to six different trial arms. Pregnant women accessing ANC in urban Malawi for the first time will be recruited into either the standard of care (SOC) arm (invitation letter to the male partner offering HIV testing) or one of five intervention arms offering oral HIV self-test kits. Three of the five intervention arms will additionally offer the male partner a financial incentive (fixed or lottery amount) conditional on linkage after self-testing with one arm testing phone call reminders.
Assuming that 25% of male partners link to care or prevention in the SOC arm, six clinic days, with a harmonic mean of 21 eligible participants, per arm will provide 80% power to detect a 0.15 absolute difference in the primary outcome. Cluster proportions will be analysed by a cluster summaries approach with adjustment for clustering and multiplicity.
This trial applies adaptive methods which are novel and efficient designs. The methodology and lessons learned here will be important as proof of concept of how to design and conduct similar studies in the future. Although small, this trial will potentially present good evidence on the type of effective interventions for improving linkage into ART or prevention. The trial results will also have important policy implications on how to implement HIVST targeting male partners of pregnant women who are accessing ANC for the first time while paying particular attention to safety concerns. Contamination may occur if women in the intervention arms share their self-test kits with women in the SOC arm.
ISRCTN, ID: 18421340. Registered on 31 March 2016.