Background: Understanding of repeat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing (RHT) is limited and the impact of rural residence as a potential barrier to RHT is unknown. Rural populations are of particular interest in the Southeastern United States because of their disproportionate HIV burden.
Methods: We used HIV surveillance data from publicly funded HIV testing sites in North Carolina to assess repeat testing by transmission risk group and residential rurality in a retrospective cohort study. Linear binomial regression models were used to estimate adjusted, 1-year cumulative incidences and cumulative incidence differences comparing RHT within transmission risk populations by level of rurality.
Results: In our total study population of 600,613 persons, 19,275 (3.2%) and 9567 (1.6%) self-identified as men who have sex with men (MSM) and persons who inject drugs (PWID), respectively. A small minority, 13,723 (2.3%) resided in rural ZIP codes. Men who have sex with men were most likely to repeat test (unadjusted, 1-year cumulative incidence after an initial negative test, 16.4%) compared with PWID (13.2%) and persons who did not identify as either MSM or PWID (13.6%). The greatest effect of rurality was within PWID; the adjusted, 1-year cumulative incidence of RHT was 6.4 (95% confidence interval, 1.4-11.4) percentage points higher among metropolitan versus rural PWID.
Conclusions: One-year cumulative incidence of RHT was low among all clients of publicly funded HIV testing sites in North Carolina, including MSM and PWID for whom annual testing is recommended. Our findings suggest a need for public health efforts to increase access to and support for RHT, particularly among rural PWID.