Objective: To investigate HIV incidence during a trial of two voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) strategies. Counselling may promote beneficial behavioural change, although knowledge of negative status does not appear to contribute further benefit.
Design: The parent cluster-randomized trial demonstrated much greater uptake of VCT when counselling and rapid testing were available on-site (intensive VCT) than through pre-paid vouchers to an external provider (standard VCT). Anonymous HIV tests had been requested from all employees at enrolment and after 2 years intervention.
Methods: The study setting was 22 businesses in Harare, Zimbabwe. Participants were 3146 HIV-negative individuals remaining in employment at the end of intervention, of whom 2966 (94.3%) consented to repeat testing. VCT linked to basic HIV care was provided and the main outcome measures were HIV incidence under each study arm, as a retrospective secondary analysis.
Results: Mean VCT uptake in this cohort was 70.7 and 5.2%, respectively, in the intensive and standard arms. Crude HIV incidence was 1.21 per 100 person-years, with non-significantly higher rates in the intensive VCT arm [mean site incidence 1.37 and 0.95 per 100 person-years, respectively; adjusted rate ratio 1.49 (95% confidence interval 0.79–2.80).
Conclusions: Highly acceptable VCT did not reduce HIV incidence in this predominantly male cohort. HIV incidence was highest in the high uptake VCT arm, lending support to a US trial in which rapid testing appeared to have adverse behavioural consequences in some HIV-negative clients. Careful comparison of outcomes under different counselling and testing strategies is needed to maximize HIV prevention from global scale-up of VCT.