Opt-out HIV testing during antenatal care: experiences of pregnant women in rural Uganda

Health Policy Plan. 2012 Jan;27(1):69-75. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czr009. Epub 2011 Feb 3.


Two years after the introduction of provider-initiated, opt-out HIV counselling and testing during antenatal care (ANC) in Uganda, HIV testing uptake is still low. This study was carried out to explore pregnant women's experiences of, and views on, the policies for opt-out, and couple HIV testing, and to understand how the policy implementation could be improved in order to increase access to prevention of mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT) services. The study was conducted at three ANC health facilities at different levels of care in rural eastern Uganda. Data were collected through sit-in observations during ANC and 18 semi-structured interviews with pregnant women receiving ANC, and thereafter analysed using latent content analysis. Pregnant women who received ANC from facilities that provided HIV testing on-site perceived HIV testing as compulsory without actually fully realizing the benefits of HIV testing and PMTCT. No referral for HIV testing or information about testing was given at ANC facilities that lacked HIV testing on-site. A major challenge of couple HIV testing was that pregnant women were made responsible for recruiting their spouses for testing, a precarious dilemma for many women who tried to fulfil health workers' requests without having the power to do so. In order to increase uptake of PMTCT services, the pre-test counselling in groups that precedes the provider-initiated HIV testing should be adjusted to inform women about the benefits of PMTCT. Further, if testing is perceived as compulsory it could potentially deter some women from seeking ANC services. In order to increase HIV testing of male partners new strategies are needed, for example peer-sensitization and male clinics. Moreover, to achieve the desired outcomes of the PMTCT programme, monitoring and evaluation should be built into the programme.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • HIV Seropositivity / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care*
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Sexual Partners
  • Uganda