Objectives: Wealth-related inequality across the South African antenatal HIV care cascade has not been considered in detail as a potential hindrance to eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission (EMTCT). We aimed to measure wealth-related inequality in early (before enrolling into antenatal care) uptake of HIV testing and identify the contributing determinants.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Settings: South African primary public health facilities in 2012.
Participants: A national-level sample of 8618 pregnant women.
Outcome measures: Wealth-related inequality in early uptake of HIV testing was measured using the Erreygers concentration index (CI) further adjusted for inequality introduced by predicted healthcare need (ie, need-standardised). Determinants contributing to the observed inequality were identified using the Erreygers and Wagstaff decomposition methods.
Results: Participants were aged 13 to 49 years. Antenatal HIV prevalence was 33.2%, of which 43.7% came from the lowest 40% wealth group. A pro-poor wealth-related inequality in early HIV testing was observed. The need-standardised concentration index was -0.030 (95% confidence interval -0.038 to -0.022). The proportion of early HIV testing was significantly better in the lower 40% wealth group compared with the higher 40% wealth group (p value=0.040). The largest contributions to the observed inequality were from underlying inequalities in province (contribution, 65.27%), age (-44.38%), wealth group (24.73%) and transport means (21.61%).
Conclusions: Our results on better early uptake of HIV testing among the poorer subpopulation compared with the richer highlights inequity in uptake of HIV testing in South Africa. This socioeconomic difference could contribute to fast-tracking EMTCT given the high HIV prevalence among the lower wealth group. The high contribution of provinces and age to inequality highlights the need to shift from reliance on national-level estimates alone but identify subregional-specific and age-specific bottlenecks. Future interventions need to be context specific and tailored for specific subpopulations and subregional settings.
Keywords: early HIV testing; pregnant women; wealth-related inequality.
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