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New HIV testing online course offered by BC Centre for Disease Control

Nurses who currently offer HIV testing in BC were likely introduced to the theory and practice through the BC Centre for Disease Control’s face-to-face (F2F) HIV testing workshop. The BCCDC Clinical Prevention Services Education program has now adapted this workshop to offer it as an online course

As with the F2F workshop, the goal of this course is to build HIV testing competence.  The online course also creates the opportunity for nurses to connect with each other to establish an informal community of practice.

Why go online?

Improvements in computer-based educational technologies now allow us to develop engaging and effective online education.  The geographical reach of online education also significantly increases the number of people to whom it can be delivered.

This supports the goal of the BCCDC and STOP HIV programs across BC to increase and improve access to HIV testing.

How did we do it?

  • Is there a need?  In 2013, the BCCDC education team consulted with HIV program leads in each Health Authority (HA) to determine if an HIV testing online course was needed.  The response was an overwhelming yes.
  • What content should be included?  We started by adapting the existing BCCDC HIV F2F workshop to the online environment.  Then, recognizing a trend to normalize HIV testing in all health care settings and across all sectors of society, we focused on adapting the approach to the individual who is receiving the test (i.e. person-centered care).  In doing this, we eliminated mechanical approaches to testing that use pre-set questionnaires; methods that have been shown to be ineffective tools in HIV testing and prevention.
  • How to approach teaching? We first struggled with how to encourage learners to engage and interact with each other.  One of the advantages of F2F learning that can get lost online is the dynamic engagement between learners.  As HIV disproportionately affects people who experience social disadvantage, we wanted learners to interact around these issues.  To accomplish this, we included 2 facilitated forums in the course.
  • How to validate?  In early 2014, we distributed the first draft of the course to the HA program leads we had consulted earlier.  Integrating their feedback into the second draft, we recruited 18 nurses as “user-testers” to take this version of the course in real time.  Their feedback provided the next set of modifications that became the course we offer today.

BCCDC HIV Testing Online course content


  • Module 1 – Introduction to HIV Testing: Introduces the course and the health competencies utilized in HIV testing.
  • Module 2 – The Virus: Overview of HIV as a pathogen and disease.


  • Module 3 – Engaging People in HIV Testing: Examines who is getting HIV in BC and how social, cultural and historical factors influence how a nurse approaches HIV testing in a person-centred manner.  Includes a discussion forum.


  • Module 4 – HIV Tests: Describes and compares the characteristics of HIV tests used in BC.


  • Module 5 – HIV Testing and Prevention Discussions:  Overviews the key elements of HIV testing discussions required to achieve informed consent, providing HIV results, and following up with HIV positive results. Includes a discussion forum.

Based on user-testing, each module requires an average of 1-1 ½ hours to complete, with slightly more time required for modules 3 and 5, which include the discussion forums.

More information

For more information on the HIV online course and the course schedule for 2014, please visit the BCCDC website. Applications for this course are required and application forms are available here.