HIV testing during the Canadian immigration medical examination: a national survey of designated medical practitioners
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HIV testing is mandatory for individuals wishing to immigrate to Canada. Since the Designated Medical Practitioners (DMPs) who perform these tests may have varying experience in HIV and time constraints in their clinical practices, there may be variability in the quality of pre- and posttest counseling provided. We surveyed DMPs regarding HIV testing, counseling, and immigration inadmissibility. A 16-item survey was mailed to all DMPs across Canada (N = 203). The survey inquired about DMP characteristics, knowledge of HIV, attitudes and practices regarding inadmissibility and counseling, and interest in continuing medical education. There were a total of 83 respondents (41%). Participants frequently rated their knowledge of HIV diagnostics, cultural competency, and HIV/AIDS service organizations as "fair" (40%, 43%, and 44%, respectively). About 25%, 46%, and 11% of the respondents agreed/strongly agreed with the statements "HIV infected individuals pose a danger to public health and safety," "HIV-positive immigrants cause excessive demand on the healthcare system," and "HIV seropositivity is a reasonable ground for denial into Canada," respectively. Language was cited as a barrier to counseling, which focused on transmission risks (46% discussed this as "always" or "often") more than coping and social support (37%). There was a high level of interest (47%) in continuing medical education in this area. There are areas for improvement regarding DMPs' knowledge, attitudes, and practices about HIV infection, counseling, and immigration criteria. Continuing medical education and support for DMPs to facilitate practice changes could benefit newcomers who test positive through the immigration process.
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