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Is HIV testing normal or special? Opinions of health professionals in four European countries in 2008

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Abstract:

The special norms in testing for HIV infection are not typical of testing or screening for other diseases. In four European countries, we studied health professionals’ views on HIV testing

This study is based on cross-sectional surveys of two groups of health professionals: presidents of selected health professional societies and head physicians and nurses of selected hospital clinics in Belgium, Estonia, Finland, and Portugal in 2008. A common structured semi-anonymous questionnaire was used in the four countries. The number of societies responding varied from five to 10 and for hospital clinics from six to 18; the response rates were from 32% to 100% and 41% to 100%, respectively.

Opinions on whether HIV testing is like any other test and on the value of specific approaches in HIV testing varied both within and between countries. Some professionals thought that HIV testing is different from the testing of other infectious diseases; others thought that such an exceptional approach may be a disservice to people and to the health system. Many professionals thought that HIV testing should not be thought of only from the point of view of the individual to be tested, but also from that of other people (potential patients). Obligatory testing was considered appropriate in certain circumstances. Generally, more HIV testing in health care was called for.

Normalization of HIV testing, i.e., considering it like any other diagnostic test, is unlikely to meet much opposition from health professionals. Larger surveys are needed to confirm the results.

Keywords: Europe; HIV testing; health professionals; patient choice; pre-test counseling; survey; voluntary

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09540121.2011.592819

Affiliations: 1: Department of Children, Young People and Families and Public Health, National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL),University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland 2: Infectious Diseases and Drug Abuse Prevention Department,National Institute for Health Development, Tallinn, Estonia 3: Department of Hygiene & Epidemology,University of Porto Medical School, Porto, Portugal 4: University of Zielona Góra, Zielona Góra, Poland 5: Service System Department,National Institute for Health & Welfare, Helsinki, Finland 6: International Centre for Reproductive Health,Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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