Open Access Open Badges Research article

What do patients think about HIV mass screening in France? A qualitative study

Marie Paule Fernandez-Gerlinger1, Erik Bernard2 and Olivier Saint-Lary2*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, Bichat-Claude Bernard Hospital, Paris, France

2 Department of General Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences Simone Veil, University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Montigny le Bretonneux, France

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:526  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-526

Published: 30 May 2013



Since 2009, HIV mass screening of the 15–70-year-old general population in low-risk situations has been recommended in France. This, not yet implemented, untargeted screening would be cost-effective with a positive impact on public health. No previous studies had interrogated primary care patients about it. This study aimed at exploring perceptions of patients attending general practitioner’s on HIV mass screening and at identifying barriers to its implementation.


We conducted a qualitative study through semi-structured individual interviews. Participants were recruited according to age, gender and location of their physician’s practice. Data analysis was based on triangulation by two researchers.


Twenty-four interviews were necessary to obtain data saturation. HIV transmission was mostly associated with sexual intercourse; main barriers stemming from the screening were related to sexuality, often seen as questioning spouse’s faithfulness. It could interfere with religiosity, implying an upsetting perception of sexuality among the elderly. Patients’ beliefs and perceptions regarding HIV/AIDS, the fear to be screened and difficulties to talk about sexuality were other barriers.


To our knowledge, no studies had previously interrogated primary care patients about barriers to HIV mass screening in France. Although relevance of this untargeted screening is debated in France, our results could be helpful to a better understanding of patients’ attitudes toward this and to an outstanding contribution to reduce the number of new cases of HIV contamination.