Background: Globally, an estimated 11.8 million young people aged 15-24 are living with HIV/AIDS. Moreover, about half of the 6000 new infections each day occur among youth fs. Within Sub- Saharan Africa over three million people were newly infected with HIV in 2005- that is 64% of all new infections globally, young people are making up half of these new infections. In Tanzania in 2003, among the 1.6 million people with HIV/AIDS, 15% were 15-24 years old, and 60% of new infection occurred among youth. Therefore, considering such rate of HIV infection, youth deserve to be the focus of HIV prevention efforts. The VCT is among of HIV intervention measures that are implemented in Tanzania, youth are among of the targeted group whose attendance has been reported low, hence the needy of this study.
Broad objective: To examine the factors influencing young people decision in accessing or not accessing the Voluntary HIV counseling and testing. Specifically, the following questions were addressed: œ What is young people fs level of knowledge on prevention and testing HIV/AIDS? œ What is young people fs knowledge, attitudes, and perception towards VCT service as means of protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS? œ What are the VCT sites level of acceptability and responsiveness to young people fs interests? œ What are the major reasons for young people not seeking and not using VCT services.
Study design and method: Within an exploratory design, qualitative methods of focus group discussion (FGD) and in-depth interviews were used.
Results: Youth have substantial knowledge of HIV and AIDS, however, their understanding are at different levels. Youth in towns and who are actively participating in HIV prevention programs are more knowledgeable than non active youth and or those living in rural areas. Furthermore, most youth do not apply acquired knowledge when they make decision on issues that might lead them to increased risk of HIV infection. In general terms, youth have heard about VCT centers, but main activities of these centers are not known to most of them. Youth fs decisions for attending or not attending VCT services were associated with various factors such as, individual perceptions, social, cultural and economical factors. Moreover, implemented policies and services that are provided in a particular center contribute to youth fs seeking VCT services or not. Young people attend VCT services when they feel they are at risk of HIV infection. Lack of VCT information, poor quality of the services, allocation of centers, and fear of stigma or fear of VCT process are some of the reasons identified for not attending VCT services identified by youth. However, youth who currently have not used VCT services, plan to attend in future. The study emphasizes the importance of having multi-approaches to making VCT services attractive and used by many young people.
Key words: Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT), young people, and counselor,