HIV Testing and Counselling in Nova Scotia

Implications for Policy and Practice

Investigators: J. Gahagan (Principal), L. Baxter, T. Hachette, and V. Delpech

Recognizing that HIV testing and counselling is a means of facilitating timely access to care, treatment and support for those who are found to be HIV+ and to help prevent the further spread of infection, understanding HIV testing behaviours is a critical facet in the prevention of the epidemic in Nova Scotia. For example, it is widely understood that the health outcomes are far worse among those who are tested and diagnosed later in their infection. In addition, as we see the HIV testing climate continue to shift and change in focus and scope, we regard this as a key opportunity to understand the implications of various testing and counselling strategies on the health of Nova Scotians (MMWR, 2006; WHO, 2004; UNAIDS, 2007).

Therefore the objectives of this project are:

  1. to understand the HIV testing rates and behaviours among individuals between the ages of (15 to 65) in Nova Scotia; and
  2. to develop a better understanding of the experiences of individuals that have been tested and had a negative result; tested and received a positive result; are contemplating or refusing testing.

Both closed ended and open-ended data will be gathered in order to better understand the provincial HIV testing rates and reasons for being tested. Anonymized HIV test result data will be gathered from all provincial HIV tests processed through the QEII Hospital. In addition, qualitative, open-ended data will be collected through in-depth interviews conducted with a diverse sample of both rural and urban individuals who have either tested HIV+ or HIV-in Nova Scotia in the past 12 months and those who have not been tested. Community representatives, including people living with HIV, health-care providers, including HIV/STI clinicians and nurses, health researchers, and public health policy and programming experts, particularly those with a focus on blood borne pathogens and health service/systems will be crucial partners in this project, including the knowledge translation aspects of the findings.

The outcomes of this project will help inform both provincial HIV testing and counselling policies and programmatic responses to identified gaps in the current provision of HIV testing and counselling services, programs, and information strategies.

Funding provided by the Nova Scotia Advisory Commission on AIDS for $34, 000 (July 2009 - June 2010).