Positive results from clinical trials of the anti-retroviral medications zidovudine and nevirapine created the possibility of offering an affordable and feasible intervention worldwide to reduce HIV transmission from an infected pregnant woman to her infant. Governmental and nongovernmental health services in many highly affected areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe have responded by piloting and rapidly expanding programs for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT). Since their inception in 1999, programs have offered voluntary HIV counseling and testing (VCT) to more than 800,000 pregnant women around the world. An important objective of VCT is to identify which pregnant women are HIV-positive so they can receive antiretroviral drugs to prevent transmitting HIV to their infants. HIV counseling and testing also offer an opportunity to promote HIV prevention, encourage serostatus disclosure, and foster couple communication on HIV and PMTCT. This brief focuses on VCT in the antenatal care setting, examining service utilization by pregnant women, their perceptions of services, client outcomes as a result of undergoing HIV counseling and testing, and strategies for improving quality and coverage of VCT as a key component of PMTCT programs.
Rutenberg, Naomi, Chipepo Kankasa, Ruth Nduati, Dorothy Mbori-Ngacha, Margaret Siwale, Scott Geibel, and Louis Apicella. 2003. "HIV voluntary counseling and testing: An essential component in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV," Horizons Research Summary. Washington, DC: Population Council.