We explored HIV testing practices of private medical providers in an urban Indian setting in Pune, western India. 215 private practitioners (PPs) and 36 persons-in-charge of private laboratories were interviewed in separate surveys. 77% of PPs had prescribed HIV tests and 94% of laboratories had performed HIV tests, or collected samples for HIV testing. Among those providers who had prescribed/performed tests, practices which violated national policy guidelines were found to be common. 55% of PPs and 94% of laboratories had not prescribed/performed confirmatory HIV tests, 82% of PPs had conducted routine HIV screening tests, 53% of PPs and 47% of laboratories had never counselled patients before testing, and 39% of laboratories reported breaching confidentiality of test results. PPs' knowledge about HIV tests was also inadequate, with 28% of PPs who had prescribed HIV tests being unable to name the tests they had advised. Prolific HIV testing in the private medical sector is accompanied by inappropriate practices and inadequate knowledge, reflecting deficiencies in the implementation of policy guidelines. The perspectives and needs of private providers, the major source of health care in India, need to be acknowledged. Supportive and regulatory mechanisms can be used to involve private providers in the delivery of better HIV testing services.
AIDS Care (2005) 17 (6) 757-766 [DOI: 10.1080/09540120412331336742]