Objective: To investigate individual, household and community factors associated with HIV test refusal in a counselling and testing programme offered at population level in rural Malawi.
Methods: HIV counselling and testing was offered to individuals aged 18-59 at their homes. Individual variables were collected by interviews and physical examinations. Household variables were determined as part of a previous census. Multivariate models allowing for household and community clustering were used to assess associations between HIV test refusal and explanatory variables.
Results: Of 2303 eligible adults, 2129 were found and 1443 agreed to HIV testing. Test refusal was less likely by those who were never married [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.50 for men (95% CI 0.32; 0.80) and 0.44 (0.21; 0.91) for women] and by farmers [aOR 0.70 (0.52; 0.96) for men and 0.59 (0.40; 0.87) for women]. A 10% increase in cluster refusal rates increased the odds of refusal by 1.48 (1.32; 1.66) in men and 1.68 (1.32; 2.12) in women. Women counsellors increased the odds of refusal by 1.39 (1.00; 1.92) in men. Predictors of HIV test refusal in women were refusal of the husband as head of household [aOR 15.08 (9.39; 24.21)] and living close to the main road [aOR 6.07 (1.76; 20.98)]. Common reasons for refusal were fear of testing positive, previous HIV test, knowledge of HIV serostatus and the need for more time to think.
Conclusion: Successful VCT strategies need to encourage couples counselling and should involve participation of men and communities.