The acceptability of voluntary HIV antibody testing in the United States: A decade of lessons learned

Kathleen L. Irwin, Ronald Valdiserri, Scott D. Holmberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: As the benefits of early diagnosis of HIV increase, US adults are more likely to be offered HIV counseling and testing in settings where they may not seek testing. Rates and determinants of counseling and testing acceptance in these settings are poorly understood. Design: We reviewed articles and abstracts published from 1985 to 1995 which addressed rates or determinants of counseling and testing acceptance in facilities that provide perinatal, family planning, gynecology, sexually transmitted disease (STD) and drug treatment services, hospitals, and prisons. Data reflected testing experience of more than 240 000 adults. Results: Acceptance rates varied widely (3-100%), even within settings of the same type. Acceptance was generally higher (> 50%) among persons at high risk for acquiring or transmitting the infection (e.g., STD patients, pregnant women at high risk) than among low-risk persons. Factors associated with high acceptance rates included the client's perception of HIV risk, acknowledging risk behaviors; confidentiality protections; presenting counseling and testing as 'routine' rather than optional; and the provider's belief that counseling and testing will benefit the client. Factors associated with low acceptance rates included prior HIV testing, fears about coping with results, and explicit informed consent. Conclusions: To institute and evaluate counseling and testing programs for persons who do not specifically seek testing, multiple determinants of acceptance must be considered. Practices that protect confidentiality, endorse counseling directed to a client's unique circumstances, and highlight the medical and social benefits of testing are likely to promote acceptance. Acceptance of counseling and testing offered non-routinely to the numerous Americans who have been previously tested or are at low risk is likely to be low.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1707-1717
Number of pages11
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes



  • AIDS serodiagnosis
  • Mass screening
  • Patient acceptance of health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy

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