Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is a neglected tropical infection, and surveillance of the disease relies on community participation in screening. This study aimed to identify the main factors associated with low community uptake of HAT screening in endemic districts in the Republic of Congo. A cross-sectional survey carried out during a HAT sensitisation campaign in the districts of Mpouya, Ngabé and Loudima, which are endemic for the disease, indicated a range of local perceptions about HAT including that it is a rural disease, and is associated with witchcraft. Participants identified sleep disorder, prolonged fever and madness as key symptoms. The main reasons for non-adherence to HAT screening was the fear of lumbar puncture and stigmatisation. These findings suggest that more effort should be put into raising awareness of HAT and the benefits of screening amongst the Congolese population, in order to strengthen the national disease control program.