Abstract: The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a global crisis with impacts that would be felt for decades to come. For the last two decades, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has spread relentlessly affecting people in all walks of life and decimating the most productive segments of the population in Tanzania. Voluntary counselling and testing is one of the important components of HIV prevention strategies aiming at sexual behaviour change. This is backed up by strong evidence from researches to support the tenet that VCT is both effective and cost-effective as a strategy for facilitating behaviour change.
The purpose of this study was to determine the perceptions and attitudes towards VCT of a sample of university students, and to investigate possible barriers affecting participation in VCT programs in Tanzania. The survey was carried out at the Mzumbe University (MU), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Morogoro region, University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) and the Institute of Finance Management (IFM) in Dar es Salaam region. The data collection process involved conducting interviews using a survey questionnaire with university students and Internet search. In addition, focus group discussion sessions were also conducted to elicit information on HIV/AIDS and VCT from the students.
The key findings of the study showed that the trend of use of VCT is increasing. This is due to the fact that the number of users has been increasing for the past five years and investments in establishing new facilities have also increased. However, comparing the number of new clients and the proportionate increase in VCT centres, it was difficulty to judge the extent of acceptability of VCT among Tanzanians. Regarding the attitudes and/or perception towards HIV testing majority of respondents indicated that they are willing, but not ready to test in the near future. The findings also indicated that even if the centres were close to the university campuses and confidentiality increased, the attitude towards VCT would not change. However, the attitude seemed to change given the availability of care and support. It was also noted that age and sex of the respondents, medical check-up behaviour, and getting new partner were the key determinants of attitudes towards voluntary counselling and testing. Further, the assessment of perception regarding the effectiveness of VCT in behavioural change and HIV prevention indicated that majority of respondents perceived VCT to be an effective instrument for shaping behaviour and prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission.
Based on the findings, it is recommended that regular training programmes for VCT facility staff should be established and increased in order to impart new knowledge and skills to respond to the needs of the youth. Besides, the ministry of higher education, science and technology, in collaboration with the universities should adopt an integrated planning approach in which HIV/AIDS plans are included in the comprehensive plans. This would allow HIV/AIDS activities to obtain financing share from the annual budget allocations through MTEF process.
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