Correlates of HIV self-testing among female sex workers in China: implications for expanding HIV screening

Cheng Wang, Ya Jie Wang, Joseph D. Tucker, Ming Zhou Xiong, Hong Yun Fu, M. Kumi Smith, Wei Ming Tang, Jason J. Ong, He Ping Zheng, Bin Yang

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Background: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) self-testing may help improve test uptake among female sex workers. China has implemented many HIV self-testing programs among men who have sex with men, creating an opportunity for promotion among female sex workers. However, there is a limited literature on examining HIV self-testing among female sex workers. This study aimed to examine HIV self-testing experiences and its determinants among female sex workers in China. Methods: A venue-based, cross-sectional study was conducted among Chinese female sex workers in 2019. Participants completed a survey including social-demographic characteristics, sexual behaviors, and HIV self-testing history, the distribution of which were analyzed using descriptive analysis. Multivariable logistic regression was conducted to identify associations with HIV self-testing. Results: Among 1287 Chinese female sex workers, 1072 (83.3%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 81.2–85.3%) had ever tested for HIV, and 103 (8.0%, 95% CI 6.6–9.6%) had ever used HIV self-testing. More than half reported that the self-test was their first HIV test (59.2%, 61/103), around one-fifth reported HIV self-testing results influenced the price of sex (21.4%, 22/103). A minority of individuals reported ever experiencing pressure to undertake HIV self-testing (6.8%, 7/103). After adjusting for covariates, HIV self-testing was positively associated with receiving anal sex in the past month (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 2.2, 95% CI 1.4–3.5), using drugs before or during sex (aOR = 2.8, 95% CI 1.8–4.5), injecting drugs in the past 6 months (aOR = 2.6, 95% CI 1.2–6.0), being diagnosed with other sexually transmitted infections (aOR = 1.6, 95% CI 1.0–2.5), tested for other sexually transmitted infections in the past six months (aOR = 3.4, 95% CI 2.1–5.5), ever tested in the hospital (aOR = 3.4, 95% CI 2.0–5.6), and ever tested in the community (aOR = 1.5, 95% CI 1.2–1.9). Conclusions: Our findings suggest that HIV self-testing could expand overall HIV testing uptake, increase HIV testing frequency, reach sub-groups of high-risk female sex workers and has limited potential harms among female sex workers. HIV self-testing should be incorporated among Chinese female sex workers as a complement to facility-based HIV testing services.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147
Number of pages9
JournalInfectious Diseases of Poverty
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2020


  • China
  • Female sex workers
  • HIV
  • Self-testing

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