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The role of private health providers in HIV testing: analysis of data from 18 countries

Douglas Johnson, Xi Cheng


July 24, 2014
HIV testing and counseling is a critical component of the overall response to the HIV epidemic in low and middle income countries. To date, little attention has been paid to the role of private for-profit providers in HIV testing.

We use data from Demographic and Health Surveys and AIDS Indicators Surveys to explore the extent to which this sector provides HIV testing in 18 developing countries.

We find that use of the private sector for HIV testing varies significantly by country, with private for-profit providers playing a significant role in some countries and a relatively minor one in others. At the country level, use of private providers for HIV testing is correlated with use of private providers for other health services yet, in many countries, significant differences between use of the private sector for HIV testing and other services exist. Within countries, we find that wealth is strongly associated with use of the private sector for HIV testing in most countries, but the relative socio-economic profile of clients who receive an HIV test from a private provider varies considerably across countries. On the one measure of quality to which we have access, reported adherence to antenatal care testing guidelines, there are no statistically significant differences in performance between public and private for-profit providers in most countries after controlling for wealth.

These results suggest that strategies for supervising and engaging private health providers with regard to HIV testing should be country specific and take into account local context.

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