Factors constituting motivators and barriers to the effective utilization of voluntary counselling and testing by girls: a case study of adolescent girls at Umoyo training centre
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Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) is a corner stone for successful implementation of prevention, care and support services among HIV negative and positive individuals. VCT is also an effective strategy in risk reduction among sexually active young people. This study was designed to determine the factors constituting motivators and barriers to the effective utilization of Voluntary Counseling and Testing among girls age between 14 and 21 at Umoyo Training Centre Lusaka. It was prompted by low uptake of VCT services among adolescent girls despite the fact that they are more vulnerable to abuse and in turn have a higher risk of acquiring HIV. This was a descriptive cross-sectional study that used both qualitative and quantitative research approaches. Data was collected through structured and semi-structured questionnaires, Focus Group Discussions with the girls and key informant interviews with VCT counselors of Kanyama Health Centre. The findings showed that the level of knowledge on VCT among adolescent girls of Umoyo Training centre was high (80%). Nearly 82 % reported that they know they can be tested for HIV and were comfortable to use the VCT services, 95% of the respondents who have heard about VCT have strong positive attitudes towards the use of VCT. Majority of the young girls believe that the best way to pass VCT information is through the electronic media (TV and Radio) and parents as one of the main sources of VCT information was ranked very low. The results indicated that perceived benefits played a role in influencing the participants’ decision to go for VCT. Even though participants acknowledged barriers to VCT, they reported that the perceived benefits for VCT outweighed the barriers. However, many barriers, benefits and motivators were reported, influencing girls’ decision-making process with regard to utilizing VCT. It was reported that fear of stigma and discrimination restricted utilization and access to VCT services. Adolescent girls feel the risks of knowing and disclosing their sero-status outweigh the benefits hence one important challenge in addressing the needs of adolescent girls lies in understanding the extent to which the adolescents known about and use protective measures against the risks.