Background: Approximately 21% of the 1.1 million HIV-infected persons in the United States are unaware of their HIV status. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend routine opt-out HIV testing for all patients aged 13-64. Yet little is known about patient and provider perspectives on routine HIV testing.
Objective: We sought to understand patient and provider perspectives on the adoption of routine HIV testing within the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Design: We conducted four focus groups with patients and two focus groups with primary care providers to explore perceptions of, communication about, and barriers and facilitators to routine HIV testing in primary care.
Participants: Convenience sample of patients and primary care providers at two geographically diverse Veterans' Affairs Medical Centers.
Approach: We conducted grounded thematic analyses of transcribed audio-recordings of focus groups to identify major themes, identifying similarities and differences between patient and provider perspectives.
Main results: Patients and providers concurred that implementation of routine HIV testing, treating HIV like other chronic diseases, and removing requirements for written informed consent and pre-test counseling were of benefit to patients and to public health. Patients, however, wished to have HIV testing routinely offered by providers so that they could decide whether or not to be tested. Veterans also stated that routinizing testing would help destigmatize HIV. Six steps to communicating about routine testing ("the 6 R's") were identified.
Conclusions: Patients and providers appear ready for implementation of routine HIV testing. However, providers should use patient-centered communication strategies to ease patients' concerns about confidentiality and stigma associated with HIV disease.