Patient acceptance of HIV testing services in rural emergency departments in South Africa

Aditi Rao, Caitlin Kennedy, Pamela Mda, Thomas C. Quinn, David Stead, Bhakti Hansoti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbera1105
JournalSouthern African Journal of HIV Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Emergency department
  • HIV counselling and testing
  • Implementation research
  • Linkage to care
  • Patient acceptance
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases


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