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Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine

On-line version ISSN 2078-6751
Print version ISSN 1608-9693


RAO, Aditi et al. Patient acceptance of HIV testing services in rural emergency departments in South Africa. South. Afr. j. HIV med. (Online) [online]. 2020, vol.21, n.1, pp.1-9. ISSN 2078-6751.

BACKGROUND: South Africa faces the highest burden of HIV infection globally. The National Strategic Plan on HIV recommends provider-initiated HIV counselling and testing (HCT) in all healthcare facilities. However, HIV continues to overwhelm the healthcare system. Emergency department (ED)-based HCT could address unmet testing needs. OBJECTIVES: This study examines the reasons for accepting or declining HCT in South African EDs to inform the development of HCT implementation strategies. METHOD: We conducted a prospective observational study in two rural EDs, from June to September 2017. Patients presenting to the ED were systematically approached and offered a point-of-care test in accordance with national guidelines. Patients demographics, presenting compaint, medical history and reasons for accepting/declining testing, were recorded. A pooled analysis is presented. RESULTS: Across sites, 2074 adult, non-critical patients in the ED were approached; 1880 were enrolled in the study. Of those enrolled, 19.7% had a previously known positive diagnosis, and 80.3% were unaware of their HIV status. Of those unaware, 90% patients accepted and 10% declined testing. The primary reasons for declining testing were 'does not want to know status' (37.6%), 'in too much pain' (34%) and 'does not believe they are at risk' (19.9%). CONCLUSIONS: Despite national guidelines, a high proportion of individuals remain undiagnosed, of which a majority are young men. Our study demonstrated high patient acceptance of ED-based HCT. There is a need for investment and innovation regarding effective pain management and confidential service delivery to address patient barriers. Findings support a routine, non-targeted HCT strategy in EDs.

Keywords : HIV counselling and testing; South Africa; emergency department; patient acceptance; implementation research; linkage to care.

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