Articles

The influence of antiretroviral treatment on willingness to test: a qualitative study in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Abstract

Previous quantitative studies suggest a mutually reinforcing relationship between HIV counselling and testing (HCT) and antiretroviral treatment (ART). HCT is the entry into ART, and access to ART appears to increase HIV-testing uptake in settings with historically low uptake. Adopting a qualitative approach, this study examined the influence of ART on willingness to test for HIV, in a rural community in South Africa. Ninety-six in-depth interviews from a large community-based HIV-prevention trial were analysed. The data provide insight into the community members’ views, perceptions and experiences regarding ART, and how they draw on these in making decisions about HIV testing. Several key factors that supported a positive relationship between ART and HIV testing were noted. These included the beliefs that ART brings hope and that it prolongs life; the powerful positive effect of witnessing the recovery of someone on treatment; and that ART encourages early HIV-testing behaviour. A few negative factors that could potentially weaken the effects of this positive relationship between ART and HCT uptake were the disclosure difficulties experienced by those enrolled in treatment, beliefs that ART does not cure HIV disease, and the travel distance to testing and treatment facilities from where people live and work. HIV/AIDS-service providers and programme planners should actively draw on these observations, to encourage increased HIV testing in communities and to ensure that the maximum number of people get the HIV treatment and care services that they require.

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