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The current research identifies key drivers of demand for linkage into care following a reactive HIV self-test result in Malawi and Zambia. Preferences are explored among the general population and key groups such as HIV-positive individuals and adolescents.We used discrete choice experiments (DCEs) embedded in representative household surveys to quantify the relative strength of preferences for various HIV services characteristics.The DCE was designed on the basis of a literature review and qualitative studies. Data were collected within a survey (Malawi n = 553, Zambia n = 388), pooled across country and analysed using mixed logit models. Preference heterogeneity was explored by country, age, sex, wealth, HIV status and belief that HIV treatment is effective.DCE results were largely consistent across countries. Major barriers for linkage were fee-based testing and long wait for testing. Community-based confirmatory testing, that is at the participant's or counsellor's home, was preferred to facility-based confirmation. Providing separated waiting areas for HIV services at health facilities and mobile clinics was positively viewed in Malawi but not in Zambia. Active support for linkage was less important to respondents than other attributes. Preference heterogeneity was identified: overall, adolescents were more willing to seek care than adults, whereas HIV-positive participants were more likely to link at health facilities with separate HIV services.Populations in Malawi and in Zambia were responsive to low-cost, HIV care services with short waiting time provided either at the community or privately at health facilities. Hard-to-reach groups could be encouraged to link to care with targeted support.