What influences linkage to care after home-based HIV counseling and testing?
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To maximize the benefits of test and treat strategies that utilize community-based HIV testing, clients who test positive must link to care in a timely manner. However, linkage rates across the HIV treatment cascade are typically low and little is known about what might facilitate or hinder care-seeking behavior. This qualitative study was conducted within a home-based HIV counseling and testing (HBHCT) intervention in South Africa. Indepth interviews were conducted with 30 HBHCT clients who tested HIV positive to explore what influenced their care-seeking behavior. A set of field notes for 196 additional HBHCT clients who tested HIV positive at home were also reviewed and analyzed. Content analysis showed that linkage to care is influenced by a myriad of factors at the individual, relationship, community, and health system levels. These factors subtly interact and at times reinforce each other. While some factors such as belief in test results, coping ability, social support, and prior experiences with the health system affect clients’ desire and motivation to seek care, others such as limited time and resources affect their agency to do so. To ensure that the benefits of community- based testing models are realized through timely linkage to care, programs and interventions must take into account and address clients’ emotions, motivation levels, living situations, relationship dynamics, responsibilities, and personal resources.