Objective: To describe the associations between socio-demographic, behavioural and clinical characteristics and the use of HIV voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) services among residents in a rural ward in Tanzania.
Methods: Eight thousand nine hundred and seventy participants from a community-based cohort were interviewed, provided blood for research HIV testing, and were offered VCT. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression was used to identify socio-demographic, clinical and behavioural factors associated with VCT use.
Results: Although 31% (1246/3980) of men and 24% (1195/4990) of women expressed an interest in the service, only 12% of men and 7% of women subsequently completed VCT. Socio-demographic factors, such as marital status, area of residence, religion and ethnicity influenced VCT completion among males and females in different ways, while self-perceived risk of HIV, prior knowledge of VCT, and sex with a high-risk partner emerged as important predictors of VCT completion among both sexes. Among males only, those infected with HIV for 5 years or less tended to self-select for VCT compared to HIV-negatives (adjusted odds ratio = 1.43; 95% CI: 0.99-2.14). This contributed to a higher proportion of HIV-positive males knowing their status compared to HIV-positive females.
Conclusions: In this setting, a disproportionate number of HIV-positive women are failing to learn their status, which has implications for equitable access to onward referral for care and treatment services. Evidence that some high-risk behaviours may prompt VCT use is encouraging, although further interventions are required to improve knowledge about HIV risk and the benefits of VCT. Targeted interventions are also needed to promote VCT uptake among married women and rural residents.