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Attitudes, perceptions and behaviours towards HIV testing among African-American and East African immigrant women in Washington, DC: implications for targeted HIV testing promotion and communication strategies
  1. Maria De Jesus1,2,
  2. Claudia Carrete1,
  3. Cathleen Maine3,
  4. Patricia Nalls3
  1. 1School of International Service, American University, Washington DC, USA
  2. 2Center on Health, Risk, and Society, American University, Washington DC, USA
  3. 3The Women's Collective, Washington DC, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Maria De Jesus, School of International Service, Center on Health, Risk, and Society, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington DC 20016, USA; dejesus{at}


Objectives The objective of the study was to examine and compare the HIV testing attitudes, perceptions and behaviours between African-American and East African immigrant women in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

Methods Adopting an inductive, qualitative methodological approach, we conducted a total of 40 in-depth, semistructured interviews between October 2012 and March 2013. Qualitative thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.

Results Overall, African-American women held more favourable views towards HIV testing than East African immigrant women. Very few East African immigrant women sought HIV testing intentionally. The majority of East African participants were tested inadvertently, while others tested for immigration-related or employment-related purposes. There were many barriers that impede women from seeking an HIV test including negative assumptions (eg, "Getting an HIV test implies that I am HIV positive"), negative emotions (eg, "Fear of being diagnosed with HIV and what this will mean for me") and potential negative reactions from partner or others (eg, "Getting an HIV test can signal distrust, disrespect, or infidelity"). There were nuances in how each group articulated some of these barriers and East African women expressed unique concerns that originated from experiences in their home countries.

Conclusions The study shed light into the complexity of factors that constrain women from presenting themselves voluntarily for an HIV test and highlighted the nuances between African-American and East African perceptions. Implications of findings for effective targeted HIV screening promotion and communication strategies among these groups of women are discussed.


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