The acceptability and efficiency of routine "opt-out" HIV testing in a South African antenatal clinic setting.
Van Wyk, Erika.
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Background and Objectives The improved uptake of antenatal Opt-out testing has been documented internationally. In South Africa little is known about the efficiency and die acceptability of Opt-out testing. This study compared VCT with Opt-out testing by measuring the efficiency (defined as uptake of testing, number of women identified as HIV positive and consultation duration of the testing approach) and the acceptability to patients and staff. Methodology We conducted a prospective, quasi-experimental equivalent time-samples clinical trial in which we enrolled a consecutive sample of women who presented at die McCord Hospital antenatal clinic from June to August 2006. The study consisted of 2 phases. During the 6 week intervention period women were offered HIV testing with the Opt-out mediod. During die 6 week control period women were offered midwife-provided VCT. Efficiency was measured in each phase, with 150 participants in the VCT arm and 150 in die Opt-out arm. Participants also completed a survey questionnaire. In depth interviews were conducted with 9 purposefully selected participants from each arm. Two focus group discussions were held with staff. The staff focus group findings were followed-up and validated by conducting in-depdi interviews with die staff members who participated in die focus groups 18 mondis later. Results The uptake of HIV testing during the VCT period was 134/150(89.3%) compared to 147/150(98.0%) in die Opt-out period (p<0.001). The percentage of women identified as being HIV positive during the VCT period was 7.33% (11/150) vs. 12.6% (19/150) during the Opt-out period (p=0.133). Time was saved as a decrease in the duration of midwife consultations from 34 min (VCT) to 26 min (Opt-out) was found with p<0.001. Qualitative analysis revealed Opt-out testing to be an acceptable way of testing. Patients found Opt-out emotionally less distressing than VCT (p<0.05). Staff reported that Opt-out decreased the burden on human resources (only one person needed to facilitate the group and shorter consultations) while it identified more women infected with HIV. Conclusion Opt-out testing is significantly more efficient and acceptable than VCT. Opt-out testing should include a group pre-test information session, adequate and ongoing post-test counselling, to be effective and acceptable.