FACTORS INFLUENCING THE UPTAKE OF VOLUNTARY COUNSELING AND TESTING (VCT) AMONG YOUTH IN GARISSA COUNTY, KENYA
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When the Government of Kenya declared HIV/AIDS a national disaster in 1999, Voluntary
Counseling and Testing centers were introduced as an intervention strategy to combat the
pandemic. Young people are a specific target group for VCT and yet they have not been studied
as an independent group in reference to their attitudes and beliefs toward VCT uptake. Although
VCT is becoming increasingly available in the developing and middle income countries, there is
still reluctance for many people to be tested. There are several possible contributing factors that
must be addressed if VCT is to have an important role in HIV prevention and care. The purpose
of the study was to assess the factors influencing the uptake of VCT services among youth of
between 15 to 30 years in Garissa municipality. A descriptive cross-sectional study design using
quantitative and qualitative methods was used. The population in this study was 8,300 youths
between 15 to 30 years in Garissa municipality. A multi stage sampling procedure was used.
Firstly, all the seven facilities (Garissa Provincial General hospital (GPGH),Sisters Maternity
Home (SIMAHO), Iftin VCT Centre, Alfaruq VCT centre, Mororo VCT centre, Police camp and
Madogo VCT center)used in the study were put into clusters on the basis of them being public or
private. The second stage involves selecting facilities in which to administer the questionnaires
using systematic sampling. The number of facilities from which the questionnaire was
administered was allocated proportionately to the youth population visiting the facility. The
sample for each stratum was then shared equally among the strata facilities selected. Finally,
clients coming for VCT service in those facilities were randomly picked and requested to
respond to a structured questionnaire until the required sample in the facility was attained. A
sample size of 367 respondents was chosen out of which 247 successfully filled and returned the
questionnaires. The study used a semi structured questionnaire as the primary data collection
tool. The questionnaires was administered at the facilities using a drop and pick later method to
the sampled respondents. Closed-ended questions were analyzed using nominal scales into
mutually exclusive categories and frequencies by employing descriptive statistics. The study
found that there is a strong positive relationship between the level of education, accessibility of
VCT services, confidentiality of health workers and uptake of voluntary counseling and testing
among the youth. The study also found that there is a negative relationship between stigma,
cultural beliefs and uptake of voluntary counseling and testing among the youth. The study
recommends that healthcare workers should use strategies such seminars and door to door visits
to educate the residents of Garissa. The study recommends that healthcare workers should keep
the information on individuals HIV status confidential and give assurance to the youth since
most youth could not respond honestly to the study because of fear of victimization