Re-appraising HIV testing

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Thursday 16th December 2010

Transcripts of one-to-one interviews (N = 19) and four focus groups (N = 18) were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Participants had varied HIV testing histories, and the sample included men who identified their HIV status as positive, men who identified it as negative, and men who did not know. The HIV test could resolve doubt and anxiety for some men, but only when ‘not knowing’ was experienced as less tolerable than an imagined positive result. Many participants were deterred from seeking an HIV test because of their fears of the implications of a positive result. The decision to take an HIV test could be understood as a choice between living with uncertainty and the perceived impact of ascertaining HIV status. For the participants in this study, the decision to test or not involved many complex medical, psychological and social factors. It is argued that the development of HIV testing policy must start with a perspective grounded in an understanding and appreciation of these complexities.

Transcripts of one-to-one interviews (N = 19) and four focus groups (N = 18) were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Participants had varied HIV testing histories, and the sample included men who identified their HIV status as positive, men who identified it as negative, and men who did not know.

The HIV test could resolve doubt and anxiety for some men, but only when ‘not knowing’ was experienced as less tolerable than an imagined positive result. Many participants were deterred from seeking an HIV test because of their fears of the implications of a positive result. The decision to take an HIV test could be understood as a choice between living with uncertainty and the perceived impact of ascertaining HIV status.

For the participants in this study, the decision to test or not involved many complex medical, psychological and social factors. It is argued that the development of HIV testing policy must start with a perspective grounded in an understanding and appreciation of these complexities.

Full article available at:
Wiley Online Library