VEND-C. Evaluating Distribution of Rapid HCV-Antibody Self-Testing Kits via Needle/Syringe Vending Machines: A Protocol Paper

Author: Daniel O'Keefe David Jacka Mark Stoove Mellissa Bryant Peter Higgs Paul Dietze Caitlin Douglass Margaret Heallard

Theme: Epidemiology & Public Health Research Year: 2022

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects approximately 58 million people globally. The simplicity and
tolerability of new treatments makes HCV elimination highly feasible, however, to realise this
potential, it is imperative that sufficient people are diagnosed. Limited access to HCV testing is an
international issue, with only an estimated 20% of those living with HCV aware of their status. In
2021, the World Health Organization released recommendations for HCV self-testing, stating that
HCV self-testing is highly acceptable and “should be offered as an additional approach to HCV testing
In most international regions, people who inject drugs remain the group most at-risk of HCV
infection and onward transmission. Syringe dispensing machines (SDM) provide sterile
needles/syringes via anonymous vending machines and are a cost-effective means of delivering
injecting equipment with 24-hour availability and may reach sub-populations who do not prefer
fixed-site needle and syringe programs. SDMs may also dispense additional public health items, such
as HCV self-testing kits.
Given the previously demonstrated effectiveness of HIV self-testing and the acceptability of HCV
self-testing, there is a clear rationale for exploring the feasibility and effectiveness of distributing
HCV self-testing kits to people who inject drugs via SDMs.
In this paper we describe the VEND-C study protocol to dispense HCV self-testing kits through
multiple SDMs in a South-Eastern region of Melbourne, Australia, including methodology,
modifications to testing kits, provision of necessary information to SDM clients and project
As an exemplar study, VEND-C provides crucial information for the replication of similar work
This world-first research project will greatly inform the delivery and expansion of HCV testing
modalities internationally, providing crucial data to support ongoing HCV elimination efforts.
Disclosure of Interest Statement:
MH and MS receive investigator-initiated research funding support from Gilead Sciences, Abbvie and
Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck. PH receives investigator-initiated research funding support from
Gilead Sciences and Abbvie. PD has received an investigator-driven grant from Gilead Sciences for
unrelated work on hepatitis C and an untied educational grant from Reckitt Benckiser for unrelated
work on the introduction of buprenorphine-naloxone into Australia. He has served as an unpaid
member on an Advisory Board for an intranasal naloxone product.

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