Drivers of uptake of HIV testing services, a snapshot of barriers and facilitators among adolescent boys and young men in Lusaka: a qualitative study
Striking gender and rural–urban disparities highlight the need to redesign HIV services to improve HIV testing and linkage by adolescent boys and young men (ABYM) in sub-Saharan African cities.
We sought to understand drivers of HIV testing among ABYM living in urban Lusaka in order to design a targeted intervention that may increase their entry into the HIV prevention and treatment cascade.
In May and June 2019, two male moderators conducted three focus group discussions lasting 1.25 hours with seven to nine ABYM per group and six in-depth interviews with healthcare providers (HCPs) working with adolescents. ABYM were conveniently selected from first aid training, sports and youth-friendly sites in three settlement areas. We purposefully selected HCP from community, facility and district levels. Thematic analyses using inductive reasoning were applied.
The 24 ABYM were 18–24 years old (median 21 years), single, from 11 different neighbourhoods and 79% had 9–12 years of education. Facilitators of HIV testing uptake included the importance ABYM placed on good health and planning their future in order to fulfil their masculine identity and societal roles. Barriers included peer norms, life-long treatment along with anticipated changes to sexual life and alcohol use, fear of results and judgement and disappointment among HCP. HCPs agreed that masculine roles (‘many things to do’) and arduous clinical processes deterred ABYM from accessing testing services. They suggested that ABYM were prone to depression which both caused and resulted from behavioural issues such as alcohol use and risk-taking, which prevented uptake of HIV testing services. Both parties agreed that ABYM needed services specifically designed for them and that offered convenient, private, swift and non-judgemental services.
ABYM disillusioned by standard counselling procedures, systemic barriers and stigma, avoid HIV test and treat services. Innovative ways and youth-specific spaces are needed to increase access to non-judgemental services that facilitate entry into the HIV prevention and treatment cascade in this population.
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