Missed Opportunities: barriers to HIV testing during pregnancy from a population based cohort study in rural Uganda

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e37590. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037590. Epub 2012 Aug 16.


The aim was to assess population-level HIV-testing uptake among pregnant women, key for access to prevention-of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) services, and to identify risk factors for not being HIV tested,The study was conducted May 2008-May 2010 in the Iganga/Mayuge Health and Demographic Surveillance Site (HDSS), Eastern Uganda, during regular surveillance of 68,000 individuals. All women identified to be pregnant May-July 2008 (n=881) were interviewed about pregnancy-related issues and linked to the HDSS database for socio-demographic data. Women were followed-up via antenatal care (ANC) register reviews at the health facilities to collect data related to ANC services received, including HIV testing. Adjusted relative risk (aRR), and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for not being HIV tested were calculated using multivariable binomial regression among the 544 women who remained after record review.Despite high ANC attendance (96%), the coverage of HIV testing was 64%. Only 6% of pregnant women who sought ANC at a facility without HIV testing services were referred for testing and only 20% received counseling regarding HIV. At ANC facilities with HIV testing services, 85% were tested. Only 4% of the women tested had been couple tested for HIV. Living more than three kilometers away from a health facility with HIV testing services was associated with not being tested both among the poorest (aRR,CI; 1.44,1.02-2.04) and the least poor women (aRR,CI;1.72,1.12-2.63).The lack of on site HIV testing services and distant ANC facilities lead to missed opportunities for PMTCT, especially for the poorest women. Referral systems for HIV testing need to be improved and testing should be expanded to lower level health facilities. This is in order to ensure that the policy of HIV testing during pregnancy is implemented more effectively and that testing is accessible for all.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Serodiagnosis / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis*
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population*
  • Uganda

Grant support

This study was funded by grants from The European Union, through the European Community's FP6, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and Karolinska Institutet's funds for PhD students (KID). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.