Acceptability and Barriers to Uptake of HIV Testing and Counseling among Students of Tertiary Institutions in Owo Ondo State Nigeria

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Authors : Ebenezer Obi Daniel

Abstract:

HIV/AIDS epidemics have reached an alarming rates globally and most especially in Sub-Sahara Africa with adverse political, economic and social implications. Nigeria is one of the countries with prevalence rate of greater than 4%, and a prevalence of 1.2% and 2.9% in males and females in the age group 15-24 years respectively (UNAIDS/WHO, 2008). Various preventive strategies have been employed to curb the spread of HIV infection because there is presently no cure. Abstinence, avoidance of multiple sexual partners, condom use, voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), and treatment of HIV-infected individuals form the cornerstone of HIV prevention. Despite these challenges, the patronage of Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) by youths and other vulnerable groups in Nigeria was reported to be very low by previous studies. This study therefore evaluates the acceptance and barriers to uptake of HIV testing and counseling among students of tertiary institutions in Owo, Ondo State Nigeria.

A total 330 undergraduates from two institutions; Rufus Giwa Polytechnic and Achievers’ University were interviewed in May, 2013. Stratified and systematic random sampling techniques were adopted and a combination of close-ended and open-ended questionnaires were used as instruments for data collection.

Majority (90.2%) of the respondents to this study knew that HIV is the cause of HIV/AIDS, but their overall knowledge of HIV infection is not impressive as over half (54.4%) of them had poor knowledge of HIV/AIDS. This is in spite of the fact that 57.1 percent of them reported anti-HIV campaign programs in their institutions within a period of twelve months preceding this study. Data analysis further indicated that 50% of respondents from both institutions had had at least one session of HIV testing, however; only 40.2% of respondents underwent HIV voluntary counseling and testing prior to their test. This differential uptake of HIV testing was found to be statistically significant at p<0.01. Most of the respondents (40.3%) that have never had HIV test reported lack of access to a screening facility as a major obstacle to having an HIV test done. In a similar vein, respondents that had no intention of having HIV test reported fear of a positive test result (30.9%), not sexually active (24.7%), denial of risk (17.3%) and fear of stigma and discrimination (16%) as reasons why they have never considered HIV testing. Gender of

respondents had no effect on subjects’ willingness to have VCT as 48.1% and 53.6% of males and females respectively who are yet to have VCT reported lack of willingness to test.

Statistical significant association were found between previous HIV testing and respondents’ age group, institutions of learning as well as their overall knowledge of HIV at p<0.05.

More HIV awareness programs and screening facilities should be made available in institutions of higher learning as well as their host communities in order to improve knowledge of HIV/AIDS among undergraduates and also increase their uptake of HIV counseling and testing in order to halt and reduce the spread of HIV infection among this age group. 

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