HIV voluntary counseling and testing (VCT-HIV) effectiveness for sexual risk-reduction among key populations: A systematic review and meta-analysis


Background: HIV disproportionately affects people who inject drugs, transgender people, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and incarcerated people. Recognized as key populations (KP), these groups face increased impact of HIV infection and reduced access to health assistance. In 1990, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention organized technical guidance on HIV Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT-HIV), with subsequent trials comparing intervention methodologies, no longer recommending this strategy. However, KP needs have not been explicitly considered.

Methods: We assessed VCT-HIV effectiveness for sexual risk-reduction among KP (PROSPERO 2020 CRD42020088816). We searched Pubmed, EMBASE, Global Health, Scopus, PsycINFO, and Web of Science for peer-reviewed, controlled trials from February, 2020, to April, 2022. We screened the references list and contacted the main authors, extracted data through Covidence, applied the Cochrane Risk-of-Bias tool, and performed the meta-analysis using Review Manager.

Findings: We identified 17 eligible trials, including 10,916 participants and evaluated HIV risk behaviors. When compared to baseline, VCT-HIV reduced unsafe sex frequency (Z=5.40; p<0.00001, I²=0%).

Interpretation: While our meta-analysis identified VCT-HIV as protective for sexual risk behaviors for among KP, the results are limited to MSM and PWID, demonstrating the paucity of data on the other KP. Also, it highlights the importance of applying a clear VCT-HIV guideline as well as properly training the counselors.


Costa AB, Viscardi LH, Feijo M, Fontanari AMV




  • Population(s)
    • Men who have sex with men
    • Transgender communities
    • People who use drugs
    • Prisoners
    • Sex workers
    • General HIV- population
  • Prevention, Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Prevention
  • Prevention
    • Sexual risk behaviour
  • Testing
    • Testing


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