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April 25, 2013 
HIV Testing Improving in Sub-Saharan Africa but many HIV-positive people do not know their status

Calverton, Maryland

Despite remarkable increases in HIV testing in sub-Saharan Africa, it remains that the majority of HIV-positive women and men in 16 of the sub-Saharan countries studied have never been tested for HIV, and therefore cannot know their HIV status.

"Demographic Patterns of HIV Testing uptake in sub-Saharan Africa", a descriptive analysis just released by MEASURE DHS, summarizes the tremendous improvements in HIV testing in the past decade. There are 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa in which MEASURE DHS has collected data about voluntary testing at least twice. In all of these countries, HIV testing increased between the two surveys for both women and men. In some countries, HIV testing has more than doubled in 5-7 years.

In Malawi, for example, only 12% of women had ever been tested for HIV in 2004, compared to 72% in 2010. In Ethiopia, testing rose from only 3% of women in 2005 to 36% in 2010. The report also demonstrates an increase in testing among men.

The disconcerting finding, however, is that in 16 out of 25 countries studied, more than half of HIV-positive individuals had never been tested for HIV and received the results. Therefore, they cannot possibly know their status, seek treatment, or change their behaviors. This is true in Mozambique, where 13% of women and 9% of men are HIV-positive. But 57% of these HIV-positive women and 70% of these HIV-positive men have never been tested for HIV.

One more hopeful finding is that in all countries that included HIV testing in their survey, HIV-positive women and men were more likely than HIV-negative women and men to report that they had previously been tested. This may indicate that women and men are aware of their vulnerability to HIV and have proactively sought testing, or that testing programs are successfully reaching out to those who are at higher risk of being HIV-positive.

The analysis also looks at patterns in HIV testing by residence, age, educational levels, and wealth, and explores the role of HIV testing during antenatal care as a contributor to the increase in overall testing among women.

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The Demographic and Health Surveys project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and has provided technical assistance for the implementation of surveys in 90 countries for 25 years. MEASURE DHS has included HIV testing in 48 surveys since 2001. For additional information contact the study's lead author, Sarah Staveteig, or Erica Nybro, 301-572-0200 or visit www.measuredhs.com.