Early diagnosis of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) leads to a decreased morbidity and mortality. General practice offers an important window for earlier diagnosis. The British HIV Association produced guidelines in 2008 advocating an increase in HIV testing, with specific references to primary care. This study explores the awareness of, and opinions towards, these guidelines within general practice.
An email questionnaire was sent to 191 general practitioners nationwide, in both areas of high and low HIV prevalence. A total of 80 doctors replied, giving a response rate of 42%. In all, 44% of the respondents were unaware of the guidelines and 89% felt comfortable discussing and carrying out an HIV test themselves; of the 11% that did not, all but one were from low prevalence areas (P = 0.037). Respondents felt that main barrier to HIV testing was patient acceptability. Having read the guidelines, 70% believed it would be feasible to follow them in practice. Those who disagreed felt that time implications were the most important reason not to adopt the guidelines.
Almost half the respondents were not aware of the guidelines; having read them, the majority felt that implementation is feasible. This demonstrates the necessity for better dissemination of these guidelines. This study found that the main barrier to performing an HIV test was felt to be patient acceptance, a contradiction to findings from recent pilot studies.