Background In traditional African setting, family members are closely knitted and provide effective social and supportive care for their loved ones during admission in hospitals. HIV testing for family members of HIV positive (HIV+) patients may enhance disclosure of status of spouses, encourage family social support and improve access to HIV services. The objective was to evaluate the approach of HIV testing of family members of both HIV+ and HIV− patients on admission in a large national HIV-treatment centre in Nigeria, West Africa.
Methods This was a prospective study in which HIV testing was offered to consented family members of HIV+ and HIV− patients on admission between January 2009 and June 2010.The family members included spouses, children of patients, parents of paediatric patients and other family members. Analysis was done in frequencies and percentages.
Results 2829 family members of 3284 patients were tested. The details are: spouses, 339 (12%); fathers, 255 (9%); mothers, 1442 (51%); and others family members, 792 (28%). 2630 (93%) of testers were first timers. Most of the testers (97%) had post-test counselling. Overall HIV prevalence was 14%: 7% among spouses; 11% and 7% among mothers and fathers respectively; and 4% among other family members. Discordant status occurred in 19% of couples tested.
Conclusion The results indicate that routine HIV testing of family members of patients on admission is a strategy for identification of large number of HIV infected persons. This method is not only innovative, but also a novel approach effective for scaling up of access to HIV prevention, care and treatment services in sub-Sahara Africa.