Uptake and utilization of institutional voluntary HIV testing and counseling services among students aged 18-24 in Kenya’s public Universities
Background: Kenya is home to an estimated 1.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS. According to the Kenya AIDS Indicator survey KAIS 2012, HIV prevalence in the age group 15-24 stood at 2.2%. Globally, young people aged 15-24 are a highly vulnerable population with respect to HIV/AIDS infection and transmission. HIV testing and counseling services play a critical role as an entry point to care and treatment. However, uptake of HIV testing and counseling services among the youth in Kenya has been reportedly low. Youths at Universities are among the priority populations in HIV/AIDS programs.
Objectives: This study aimed to determine the barriers to uptake and utilization of institution-based voluntary counseling and testing VCT services among students aged 18-24 in selected public universities in Kenya. The specific objectives were to determine the factors associated with uptake and utilization and the association between various socio-demographic factors and service uptake in institutional VCT facilities.
Methods: This research utilized a descriptive cross-sectional study design where primarily, data was collected using semi-structured questionnaires and through focus group discussions held with the students in the sampled Universities. Data available at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology JKUAT Hospital VCT were reviewed for the period 2010 and 2016 to give an insight into service utilization rates among students. Multi-stage sampling technique was utilized to reach a student sample size of 305 from the selected public Universities in Kenya.
Results: Uptake of institutional VCT services among University students sampled stood at 45% from a population where 84.4% were aware of the presence of these services on their campuses. More males than females utilized the services. Emerging themes from the study indicated that participants utilized the services for different reasons. Accessibility to test site, testing hours, fear to be seen at site and fear of test result were also identified as factors affecting service uptake. These factors also were also reported when students were asked about their desired characteristics of a VCT facility on campus.
Conclusion: This study has unraveled the factors that are associated with testing and counseling in institutional facilities. University students seem to seek and utilize VCT services for different reasons. It is also clear that patterns of services utilization vary from group to another as observed in the case of year of study, gender and age category.
Recommendations: It is necessary for policy makers in institutions of higher learning together with those tasked with managing healthcare services in these institutions to adopt approaches that will overcome the barriers to utilization of VCT services among students. With knowledge of the factors associated with uptake and utilization of VCT services in institutional facilities, efforts to tackle the barriers and maximize on enhancers should be utilized fully in order to improve uptake and utilization of services. More research should also focus on the persisting risky sexual behaviors among University students despite the high knowledge they have on HIV/AIDS.
Keywords: Higher learning institutions, voluntary counseling and testing, HIV, barriers and uptake.
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