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Confl Health. 2013 Feb 14;7(1):2. doi: 10.1186/1752-1505-7-2.

Testing experiences of HIV positive refugees in Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda: informing interventions to encourage priority shifting.

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Brigham & Women's Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 02115, USA.



Recent initiatives by international health and humanitarian aid organizations have focused increased attention on making HIV testing services more widely available to vulnerable populations. To realize potential health benefits from new services, they must be utilized. This research addresses the question of how utilization of testing services might be encouraged and increased for refugees displaced by conflict, to make better use of existing resources.


Open-ended interviews were conducted with HIV-infected refugees (N=73) who had tested for HIV and with HIV clinic staff (N=4) in Nakivale Refugee Settlement in southwest Uganda. Interviews focused on accessibility of HIV/AIDS-related testing and care and perspectives on how to improve utilization of testing services. Data collection took place at the Nakivale HIV/AIDS Clinic from March to July of 2011. An inductive approach to data analysis was used to identify factors related to utilization.


In general, interviewees report focusing daily effort on tasks aimed at meeting survival needs. HIV testing is not prioritized over these responsibilities. Under some circumstances, however, HIV testing occurs. This happens when: (a) circumstances realign to trigger a temporary shift in priorities away from daily survival-related tasks; (b) survival needs are temporarily met; and/or (c) conditions shift to alleviate barriers to HIV testing.


HIV testing services provided for refugees must be not just available, but also utilized. Understanding what makes HIV testing possible for refugees who have tested can inform interventions to increase testing in this population. Intervening by encouraging priority shifts toward HIV testing, by helping ensure survival needs are met, and by eliminating barriers to testing, may result in refugees making better use of existing testing services.

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