Background: Uptake of HIV test results from an annual serosurvey of a population study cohort in rural southwestern Uganda had never exceeded 10% in any given year since inception in 1989. An intervention offering counselling and HIV results at home was conducted in four study villages following the 2001 serosurvey round, and followed by a qualitative evaluation exploring nature of demand and barriers to knowing HIV status.
Methods: Data from annual serosurveys and counsellor records are analyzed to estimate the impact of the intervention on uptake of HIV test results. Textual data are analyzed from 21 focus group discussions among counsellors, and men and women who had received HIV test results, requested but not yet received, and never requested; and 34 in-depth interviews equally divided among those who had received test results either from counselling offices and homes.
Results: Offering HIV results at home significantly increased uptake of results from 10 to 37% for all adults aged 15 (p < 0.001), and 46% of those age 25 to 54. Previous male advantage in uptake of test results was effectively eliminated. Focus group discussions and in-depth interviews highlight substantial non-monetary costs of getting HIV results from high-visibility public facilities prior to intervention. Inconvenience, fear of stigmatization, and emotional vulnerability of receiving results from public facilities were the most common explanations for the relative popularity of home-based voluntary counselling and testing (VCT). It is seen as less appropriate for youth and couples with conflicting attitudes toward testing.
Conclusions: Home delivery of results revealed significantly higher demand to know HIV status than stubbornly low uptake figures from the past would suggest. Integrating VCT into other services, locating testing centres in less visible surroundings, or directly confronting stigma surrounding testing may be less expensive ways to reproduce increased uptake with home VCT.