Missed Opportunities for Universal HIV Screening in Primary Care Clinics

Angela L. Hudson, MarySue V. Heilemann, Michael Rodriguez


Background: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the number of new cases of HIV infection has been underreported annually by at least 40,000 cases. In 2006, the CDC recommended that voluntary HIV counseling and testing (VCT) was given to all patients aged 13 to 64 years in ambulatory care settings. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore primary care providers’ (PCP) perspectives on and experiences of facilitators and barriers to offering VCT as part of annual screening.

Methods: This was a descriptive, exploratory study where fifteen primary care providers were individually interviewed. Only community-based primary care providers were interviewed, and no obstetrician/gynecologists were enrolled, as VCT is standard of care in that specialty.

Results: Barriers included doubts about the CDC recommendation, time constraints, fear, and assumptions about age and marital status. Facilitators included normalizing HIV testing and the availability of resources and training. PCPs’ role as an advocate and their professional style had the paradoxical potential of being both a barrier and a facilitator to VCT. Providers’ ability to connect patients to community resources was linked to their persistence and experience.

Conclusions: Findings suggest more effort is needed by PCPs to facilitate HIV counseling and testing more frequently to their ambulatory care patients.



Primary care providers; HIV testing; Ambulatory care

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