Willingness of Certified Health Education Specialists to conduct rapid HIV testing: Results from the Promoting Research on Methods in Screening Expertise Study

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Health Promotion Practice

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Background. Approximately 16% of people living with HIV are not aware of their infection. Health education specialists, with their training in health program design, implementation, evaluation, and work with vulnerable communities, may have the necessary expertise to conduct rapid HIV testing (RHT). Method. A national, cross-sectional, online survey of Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES) and Master CHES (MCHES) was conducted from April to October 2013, with participants recruited through the National Commission on Health Education Credentialing. We surveyed CHES/MCHES on HIV knowledge and attitudes as well as willingness to conduct RHT. Results. A total of 1,421 CHES/MCHES completed the survey, with a median age of 32 years and median level of 7 years of experience. The majority were White (70.3%), female (91.7%), and heterosexual (93.1%). The majority of respondents had high knowledge of HIV (69.7%), thought that CHES/MCHES should offer RHT (75.2%), and was willing to get trained/certified to conduct RHT (80.3%). Those willing to get trained/certified were more likely to feel comfortable educating clients about HIV prevention methods (p < .001) and planning health promotion programs for people living with HIV (p < .001). Perceived barriers to conducting RHT were related to lack of knowledge of RHT counseling (34.8%) and procedures (25%). Conclusions. CHES/MCHES have the potential to play a significant role in increasing the availability of HIV testing, and the majority of respondents expressed a willingness to become involved. However, training and implementation barriers were identified. Piloting such an approach should be considered to further evaluate the optimum ways in which expanding HIV testing can be achieved.