With the current global focus on strengthening HIV prevention through greater testing and treatment uptake, it is increasingly salient to identify and address barriers to testing. A review of the published, peer-reviewed literature and national reports from Australia, Canada, and the UK (2003-2013) on barriers to HIV testing was conducted to provide new information relevant to Australia and to complement earlier reviews from Canada and the UK. A systematic database search using keywords and a set of inclusion criteria yielded 36 studies (Australia = 13; Canada = 6; and the UK = 17). In addition 17 unpublished reports were included in the review. Our study uses a novel, comprehensive framework to describe barriers to HIV testing, and thus contributes to moving beyond the traditional patient-provider-system categorization. Within that framework, barriers are categorized as either intrapersonal (reported in 15 studies), interpersonal (21), or extrapersonal (16) and conceptualized within wider sociocultural and structural contexts. People's abilities and motivations to test (intrapersonal factors) are influenced by a host of interconnected factors spanning relationship (interpersonal) and broader socioeconomic, political and cultural (extrapersonal) factors. We suggest that the relative effects of interventions targeting barriers to HIV testing at the intrapersonal and interpersonal levels are limited by the extent to which the social determinants of health are addressed. The framework may also lend itself to thinking about the enabling factors for HIV testing, and future research may investigate the application of that framework for strategizing the most effective response. Future studies should also capture the lived experiences of barriers to HIV testing experienced by patients, especially in populations which are hard to reach based on social and geographic distance. Context-specific studies to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of various interventions proposed in the literature to address barriers to HIV testing are needed.
Keywords: Australia; Canada; HIV testing; UK; framework; review.