Postgrad Med J doi:10.1136/postgradmedj-2011-130031
  • Original article

HIV testing: getting the message across—a survey of knowledge, attitudes and practice among non-HIV specialist physicians

  1. Nikhil Premchand1
  1. 1Department of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine, Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
  2. 2Regional Infectious Diseases Unit, NHS Lothian University Hospital Trust, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ewan Hunter, Department of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 4LP, UK; ewan.hunter{at}
  1. Contributors EH, MP and NP were jointly responsible for the conception, design of the study, analysis of the data and preparation of the manuscript and act as guarantors of the study. MP and NP were responsible for collection of the data. CL offered scientific advice on various aspects of the study and provided editorial input into the preparation of the final manuscript.

  • Received 17 March 2011
  • Accepted 24 October 2011
  • Published Online First 15 December 2011


Introduction 26% of people living with HIV in the UK remain undiagnosed and over 50% of adults with HIV are significantly immunocompromised at the time of diagnosis. Current guidelines recommend routine testing in all patients presenting with a range of conditions in low prevalence areas (<2/1000).

Methods The authors conducted an online survey of the knowledge, attitudes and practice of non-HIV specialist physicians with regard to HIV testing in two areas of the UK with a lower prevalence of HIV. Key outcomes included recognition of recommended clinical indications for HIV testing and perceived barriers to performing HIV tests more routinely. All responses were collected in July 2009.

Results Recommended indications for HIV testing were identified by 0–43.7% of 119 respondents. 47.9% cited a low prevalence of HIV as a barrier to routine testing. 88% of 60 consultant physicians were unaware of current guidelines on testing for HIV.

Conclusion The authors found a low awareness of current guidance on testing for HIV and a high level of perceived barriers to testing. Reducing the high number of late diagnoses is a clinical and public health priority. To achieve this, the authors recommend improved policy dispersal coupled with education that targets perceived barriers to testing.


  • EH and MP contributed equally to the research.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This is a descriptive study which includes aspects of audit, comparing current practice with published guidelines. No patients or patient-identifiable information were involved, all included responses were fully anonymous and there were no immediate implications for changes to clinical practice. Formal ethical approval was therefore not considered necessary, although the study was conducted with the approval of the local NHS Trusts that were involved.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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