Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Routine offer of antenatal HIV testing (“opt-out” approach) to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV in urban Zimbabwe

Winfreda Chandisarewa, Lynda Stranix-Chibanda, Elizabeth Chirapa, Anna Miller, Micah Simoyi, Agnes Mahomva, Yvonne Maldonado, Avinash K Shetty

Objective

To assess the impact of routine antenatal HIV testing for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) in urban Zimbabwe.

Methods

Community counsellors were trained in routine HIV testing policy using a specific training module from June 2005 through November 2005. Key outcomes during the first 6 months of routine testing were compared with the prior 6-month “opt-in” period, and clients were interviewed.

Findings

Of the 4551 women presenting for antenatal care during the first 6 months of routine HIV testing, 4547 (99.9%) were tested for HIV compared with 3058 (65%) of 4700 women during the last 6 months of the opt-in testing (P < 0.001), with a corresponding increase in the numbers of HIV-infected women identified antenatally (926 compared with 513, P < 0.001). During routine testing, more HIV-infected women collected results compared to the opt-in testing (908 compared with 487, P < 0.001) resulting in a significant increase in deliveries by HIV-infected women (256 compared with 186, P = 0.001); more mother/infant pairs received antiretroviral prophylaxis (n = 256) compared to the opt-in testing (n = 185); and more mother/infant pairs followed up at clinics (105 compared with 49, P = 0.002). Women were satisfied with counselling services and most (89%) stated that offering routine testing is helpful. HIV-infected women reported low levels of spousal abuse and other adverse social consequences.

Conclusion

Routine antenatal HIV testing should be implemented at all sites in Zimbabwe to maximize the public health impact of PMTCT.

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