Human Immunodeficiency Virus Test Refusal in Pregnancy: A Challenge to Voluntary Testing

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Abstract

Objective

To determine if awareness of methods to reduce vertical transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is associated with HIV test acceptance and to clarify patients' attitudes toward routine versus elective prenatal HIV testing.

Methods

In a cross-sectional study, 247 antenatal patients were surveyed regarding HIV knowledge, self-perceived HIV risk, and willingness to learn a positive test result. This information, along with demographic and risk factor data, was related to HIV test acceptance. Patients also indicated their attitudes toward routine versus elective prenatal testing for HIV and other common prenatal screening tests.

Results

Seventy-two percent of antenatal patients accepted HIV testing. Test acceptance was not associated with the presence of risk factors, self-perceived HIV risk, or demographic factors, including race and ethnicity. Test acceptance was associated positively with patients' knowledge of a medical intervention to reduce vertical transmission and their willingness to learn a positive HIV test result. Only 24% of patients knew that the risk of vertical transmission could be reduced using medication. Sixty-nine percent of patients said that prenatal HIV testing should be routine, whereas 27% said that it should be done only after specific written consent. As a group, our patients viewed HIV screening no differently from screening for other infections in pregnancy.

Conclusion

Interventions aimed at increasing HIV testing rates among pregnant women should focus on educating patients about vertical transmission reduction and promising new therapies for HIV infection. Proponents of elective testing should re-evaluate the assumption that patients view HIV testing differently from other prenatal tests for which separate written consent is not required.

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