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Keywords:

  • HIV;
  • voluntary counselling and testing;
  • rural;
  • Tanzania

Summary

Objective  To evaluate the impact of a national HIV voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) campaign on presentation to HIV care in a rural population in Tanzania.

Methods  Retrospective analysis of data of the VCT and of the National AIDS Control Programme registers of the St. Francis Designated District Hospital at Ifakara for the two 6-month periods before (2007) and after (2008) the National VCT Campaign.

Results  There were 4354 individuals presenting at St. Francis Hospital tested for HIV; 2065 (47.4%) before the VCT Campaign and 2289 (52.6%) afterwards. The overall HIV test positivity was 24.6% and higher in 2007 than in 2008 (26%vs. 23%, P = 0.034). This rate was much higher than the Tanzanian National HIV prevalence of 5.7%. Of 1069 individuals who tested HIV-positive, the proportion of married, divorced or widowed individuals and those who lived further than 10 km from the hospital increased from 2007 to 2008. In 356 HIV-infected persons with available data, the median CD4 cell count increased from 137 to 163 cells/mm3 (P = 0.058), while the WHO clinical stage was similar in both periods. Enroling into the National AIDS Control Programme was significantly more common in 2008 (42%vs. 30%, P < 0.001). In a multivariate analysis, the only positive predictor of testing HIV positive when presenting for care after the National VCT Campaign was being married (OR 1.61, 95%CI 1.21–2.15, P = 0.001) or divorced/widowed compared to single (OR 4.58, 95% CI 3.00–8.12, P < 0.001).

Conclusions  Our results suggest that the National VCT Campaign raised awareness and readiness to test for HIV in a remote rural setting and that the HIV-positive test rate is much higher in conjunction with a specific HIV care programme.