Survey of Barriers to HIV Testing Among People who Inject Drugs, Georgia, 2012

HIV testing is an important preventive measure to avoid the HIV epidemics spread. Along with other measures implemented with the Government and donor organizations support in Georgia HIV testing is offered to the representatives of high-risk groups, including PWIDs. Although the level of awareness of this risk-group about the availability of counseling and testing services is satisfactory, the utilization of these services is low. This survey aimed at investigating factors promoting or hampering utilization of HIV testing services among PWIDs.

The qualitative survey among PWIDs was conducted in 2012 in six big cities of Georgia (Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Telavi, Gori) in parallel with the Bio-Behavioral Surveillance Survey. The survey applied in-depth interviews technique. In total, 56 respondents participated in the qualitative survey, 12 of which were females. Anonymity was ensured for the study participants. The study protocol and the questionnaire were approved by the Ethics Committee of the HIV/AIDS Patients Support Foundation. The fear of diagnosis is one of the leading barriers to HIV testing. This psychological barrier is supported by a deeply rooted stereotype that a positive HIV test result means a death sentence for the patient and that HIV infection is a disease which is dangerous for the patient’s social contacts. The fear of diagnosis is closely connected with stigma that exists in the society in relation with HIV positive / AIDS affected individuals. The survey revealed that stigma associated with drug users, especially female drug users, is a major impeding factor for undertaking HIV testing. By avoiding HIV testing drug users are, in fact, trying to keep themselves away from acquiring the double label of an “AIDS patient” and a “drug addict” (double stigma).

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