Background To improve HIV prevention and care programs, it is important to understand the uptake of HIV testing and to identify population segments in need of increased HIV testing. This is particularly crucial in countries with concentrated HIV epidemics, where HIV prevalence continues to rise in the general population. This study analyzes determinants of HIV testing in a rural Vietnamese population in order to identify potential access barriers and areas for promoting HIV testing services. Methods A population-based cross-sectional survey of 1874 randomly sampled adults was linked to pregnancy, migration and economic cohort data from a demographic surveillance site (DSS). Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to determine which factors were associated with having tested for HIV. Results The age-adjusted prevalence of ever-testing for HIV was 7.6%; however 79% of those who reported feeling at-risk of contracting HIV had never tested. In multivariate analysis, younger age (aOR 1.85, 95% CI 1.14–3.01), higher economic status (aOR 3.4, 95% CI 2.21–5.22), and semi-urban residence (aOR 2.37, 95% CI 1.53–3.66) were associated with having been tested for HIV. HIV testing rates did not differ between women of reproductive age who had recently been pregnant and those who had not. Conclusions We found low testing uptake (6%) among pregnant women despite an existing prevention of mother-to-child HIV testing policy, and lower-than-expected testing among persons who felt that they were at-risk of HIV. Poverty and residence in a more geographically remote location were associated with less HIV testing. In addition to current HIV testing strategies focusing on high-risk groups, we recommend targeting HIV testing in concentrated HIV epidemic settings to focus on a scaled-up provision of antenatal testing. Additional recommendations include removing financial and geographic access barriers to client-initiated testing, and encouraging provider-initiated testing of those who believe that they are at-risk of HIV.