Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Infectious Diseases and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Knowledge of HIV status prior to a community HIV counseling and testing intervention in a rural district of south Africa: results of a community based survey

Hanani Tabana13*, Tanya Doherty12, Sonja Swanevelder1, Carl Lombard1, Debra Jackson2, Wanga Zembe1 and Reshma Naik14

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Research Council, Francie van Zyl Drive, Parrow, Cape Town, South Africa

2 University of the Western Cape, Modderdam Road, Bellville, Cape Town, South Africa

3 Division of Global Health (IHCAR), Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Nobels vag 9 5-171 77, Stockholm, Sweden

4 School of Public Health, Boston University, 715 Albany Street, Boston 02118, MA, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Infectious Diseases 2012, 12:73  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-73

Published: 29 March 2012



The low uptake of facility-based HIV counseling and testing (HCT) in South Africa, particularly amongst men and youth has hindered attempts to increase access to effective treatment and prevention strategies. Many barriers to HIV testing have been described including long waiting times, transport to reach facilities, fear of lack of confidentiality and health systems factors such as stock outs of HIV test kits. The aim of this study was to undertake a community survey to determine rates of HCT in a rural area in order to plan a community intervention.


A community-based survey was undertaken in 16 communities in Sisonke district, KwaZulu-Natal between September and November 2008. A total of 5821 individuals participated in the survey of which 66% were females. Gender specific mixed effects logistic regression models were used to describe differences in socio-economic characteristics, and their association with HIV testing histories.


Overall 1833 (32%) individuals in this rural area knew their HIV status. Prior testing was higher amongst women (39%) than amongst men (17%). Older men (> 24 years) were more likely to report having tested for HIV previously, with the highest likelihood (adjusted OR = 4.02; 95% CI: 2.71-5.99) among men in age group, 35-49 years. For women, age group 25-34 years had the highest likelihood of having been previously tested (adjusted OR = 1.30; 95% CI: 1.05-1.66). Being currently pregnant (adjusted OR 3.31; 95% CI: 2.29 - 4.78) or having a child under five (adjusted OR 7.00; 95% CI: 5.84 - 8.39) were also associated with prior HIV testing amongst women.


Overall, knowledge of HIV status in this rural sub-district is low. The relatively higher uptake of HIV testing among women is encouraging as it shows that PMTCT services are well functioning. However, these data suggest that there is an urgent need for scaling up HIV testing services in rural communities specifically targeting men and youth.