An Evaluation of HIV Testing and Counselling Practices in Ontario

Following the introduction of rapid point of care testing and expansion of anonymous testing for HIV in Ontario, CRICH conducted a two-year evaluation of HIV counselling and testing activities across the province.

Providers and clients at HIV test sites, sexual health clinics, and at physicians`offices were contacted and asked to complete a short survey.

The study found that almost all clients (93-98 per cent) reported good counselling and testing experiences.

The top reasons for seeking testing were: had sex without a condom (50 per cent), or health concerns (22 per cent).

Most providers reported familiarity with Ontario’s guidelines for HIV testing and counselling and that they were sufficient and helpful.

Providers at testing sites said that counselling and testing were successful for a number of reasons including: strong focus on HIV education, client-centered communication, consistent use of recommended forms and information and experience sharing among staff.

The study also showed that providers wanted additional information on how to counsel “anxious” clients (i.e. those who frequently return for repeat testing), how to meet the needs of culturally diverse populations and ways to reach hard-to-serve or marginalized clients.

What is “rapid point of care testing”?

Rapid point of care testing is a quick and reliable HIV test based on a finger-prick that screens for HIV antibodies in the blood. The whole process (which includes pre-test counselling, administration of the test itself, and post-test counselling) takes about 20 minutes. Traditional HIV tests take about two weeks.

What is “anonymous testing”?

Anonymous testing is an approach that allows people to find out their HIV status without giving their name or any personal information. Instead, they are given a code that’s used to track testing information anonymously. Complete discretion is assured.