Couples’ Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing

by Michael_Koger

Though individual HIV testing and counseling prevent transmission of the disease, joint effort of both partners is highly effective.

Worldwide, 67 million people in 100 countries had HIV tests in 2009 [2]. Testing and counseling, whether individual or as a couple, have significant impact on control of this disease. There has been, however, considerable research on the use of couples’ voluntary HIV counseling and testing (CVCT) over the last three decades, and the studies suggest that it is quite effective [1, 2].

Methods of HIV Counseling

Individual counseling and testing involves the release of test results only to that person.  Couples’ voluntary HIV counseling and testing, on the other hand, is an approach in which  sexual partners go for testing and counseling together, and they learn the results of each other’s HIV test.  The CVCT method is especially important in high-risk regions of the world where the occurrence of disease is very high [1, 2].

Benefits of CVCT

Couples that go for testing together tend to be more compliant with antiretroviral therapy should it become necessary.  This decreases risk of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV when the woman becomes pregnant.  They establish good communication with each other through CVCT, and there is less likelihood that intimate partner violence will take place than with couples who undergo testing individually or not at all [1, 2]. 

These couples who participate in CVCT are more likely to use condoms than those who do not go for this type of counseling as their comprehension of the disease and its transmission is quite good [1, 2].  There is also less stigma with these couples than in relationships where communication and marital cohesion are unsatisfactory.  Moreover, men who participate in CVCT may decide to have circumcision in order to further reduce the spread of disease.    

Health Behavior Change Necessary

Since there is no satisfactory vaccine to protect humans against this medical condition and no cure available, health behavior change is the main tool to control transmission. Couples’voluntary HIV counseling and testing, therefore, is very important to address this worldwide public health crisis.  For the last 30 years, the infection has especially spread in heterosexual couples who cohabitate [1, 2]. 

In fact, most cases of HIV acquisition take place in serodiscordant couples, in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other HIV-negative, and who live together [1, 2].  


The occurrence of HIV infection continues to affect people who have it and their families worldwide, and further efforts to actively involve couples in testing and counseling are vital to control the pandemic.


  1. Mayer, K. and Pizer, H.  (2009).  HIV Prevention.  A Comprehensive Approach.  Chapter Nine.  San Diego:  Academic Press.
  2. World Health Organization.  (2012).  Guidance on couples HIV testing and counselling including antiretroviral therapy for treatment and prevention in serodiscordant couples.  Retrieved May 12, 2013.
  3. The photograph is a thin-section transmission electron micrograph of several human immunodeficiency virus particles.  Reprinted with permission from Centers for Disease Control/Dr. A. Harrison/Dr. P. Feorino.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 05/13/2013, Michael_Koger
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