Informed Consent for HIV Testing in a South African Hospital: Is It Truly Informed and Truly Voluntary?

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The purpose of this study was to assess informed consent to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing in a perinatal HIV transmission study in a major referral hospital serving a largely Black population in South Africa.


First-time antenatal clinic attenders who were randomly selected from those enrolled in the perinatal HIV study (n = 56) answered questionnaires before and after counseling.


Knowledge of HIV transmission and prevention, high at the outset, was little improved after counseling. The acceptance rate for HIV testing was high. Despite assurances that participation was voluntary, 88% of the women said they felt compelled to participate in the study.


Informed consent in this setting was truly informed but not truly voluntary. (Am J Public Health. 1998;88:637-640)

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