Facilitators and barriers to implementing provider-initiated HIV counselling and testing at the clinic-level in Ekurhuleni District, South Africa

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Implementation science communications








Barriers and facilitators; HIV testing; HIV testing services; Normalization; Provider-initiated counselling and testing


BACKGROUND: HIV testing is the entry point into the HIV care continuum and critical for HIV epidemic control. Facility-based HIV testing services (HTS) reach individuals who are already seeking clinical care and engaging with the medical care system. For this reason, individuals diagnosed with HIV during facility-based HIV testing are more likely to continue into HIV care. To increase the number of PLHIV who are diagnosed and initiated on ART, in 2015, the South African Department of Health instituted Provider-Initiated Counselling and Testing (PICT) policy-encouraging healthcare providers to recommend HIV testing, but this strategy remains under-utilized. We aimed to identify key constraints to the normalization of PICT implementation in 10 Ekurhuleni District healthcare facilities in South Africa. METHODS: In-depth interviews were conducted with 40 healthcare workers (28 clinicians and 12 lay counsellors). Health care workers were purposefully selected to participate in the interviews, stratified by health facility and work category. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and translated for analysis. Thematic analysis was guided by the normalization process theory (NPT). NPT theory explains how practices are routinely embedded within organizational contexts. We used NVivo 10 software for qualitative data management. RESULTS: Both clinicians and lay counsellors exhibited a clear understanding of the PICT policy- acknowledging its purpose and value. The identified barrier to normalization of PICT among clinicians was offering HIV testing based on suspicion of HIV despite understanding that PICT involves offering testing to all clients. Additionally, clinicians perceived PICT as incongruent with their clinical roles and perceived it to be lay counsellors' responsibility. The main facilitator was the participation of all healthcare workers, specifically the presence of lay counsellors, although they also faced barriers such as a lack of workspace and under-appreciation. CONCLUSIONS: Use of NPT helped identify barriers that prevent the normalization of PITC and its integration into routine patient care. These barriers can be modified by low-cost interventions that promote congruence of PICT to the roles of clinicians and integrate the role of lay counsellors within the patient flow in the facility.


Prevention and Community Health