Factors influencing uptake of Voluntary Counselling and Testing services among youth in tertiary colleges: a case of Tharaka Nithi County, Kenya
Ngule, Caesar W
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HIVcounseling and testing are key elements in a comprehensive response to mv I AIDS epidemic. The purpose of this study was therefore to determine the factors influencing uptake of VCT services among the youth of Chuka Division, Tharaka Nithi County. Objectives of the study were to examine if awareness on HIV/AIDS influences uptake of VCT services among the youth of Chuka Division; to establish whether availability of VCT services influences uptake of VCT services among the youth in Chuka Division; to determine whether fear of stigmatization influences uptake of VCT services among the youth in Chuka Division; and to explore if religion influences uptake of VCT services among the youth in Chuka Division. VCT centers were established to help people know their HIV status and help them make right decisions. While there are risks involved with knowing one's HIV status, the benefits both for the individual and the community, lead to increased demand for accessing VCT services. According to Ritcher, Griesel, Durrheim, Solomon and Rooyen (1999), VCT helps people make informed decisions by weighing up the 'pros and cons' of going for VCT, that is,what they would do if tested HIV negative or HIV positive. The authors further maintain that VCT helps people to access information about the personal, medical, social, psychological and legal implications of testing either negative or positive. According to Shagula's study (2006) 43% of the respondents feared stigmatization, discrimination and rejection by the family and community if they were found to be HIV positive. Literature that has so far been reviewed indicates urgency to substantially increase HIV testing and counseling to reach Kenya's goal of 80% testing coverage for all adolescents and adults by 2011. The study used qualitative survey techniques, which utilized questionnaires as the main tools of data collection. The study focused on youths who constitute the highest percentage of the Kenyan population. The sample was selected from Chuka post education students in Tharaka Nithi County. The area of study was selected purposively, while the students were sampled using simple random and simple stratified random sampling to ensure a true representation of the population. Prior authority was obtained from the Ministry of Education Science and Technology. Data was analyzed using descriptive techniques, and utilized SPSS (Statistical package for social sciences). Results from this study indicated that, most youths/students fall within an age bracket most susceptible to HIV I AIDS reason being the fact that, more young people are becoming sexually active in their teenage years. Therefore, visiting a VCT centre is important since they help the youth to access information about personal, medical, social, psychological and legal implications of testing either negative or positive. By knowing their HIV status, youth normally prevent spreading the virus through guidance and counseling sessions. The government through the Ministry of Health should create incentives to encourage the youth to undergo testing which should take the form of community services providing support, treatment and care. At the same time, disincentives to test, such as stigma and discrimination, should be discouraged within the community by creating enough awareness regarding ways of transmission as well.as effective preventive measures.