MPhil study projects

Young people’s perceptions and attitudes towards HIV counselling and testing in Gambella, Democratic Republic of Congo

Student: Kitenge Kiboko

Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) boasts a relatively low HIV prevalence rate of 1,2%. Despite significant strides in reducing HIV infections and Aids-related fatalities since 2010, the persistence of HIV-related stigma however presents a formidable obstacle. Young individuals aged 15 to 24 years constitute a substantial segment of the DRC’s HIV-affected populace, yet tailored interventions for this cohort remain scarce, perpetuating misinformation and fear.

This study examined the perceptions, encounters and engagement of young people in Gambella concerning HIV counselling and testing (HCT). Through in-depth interviews, data elucidated a prevalent aversion among Gambella’s youth towards HIV testing, primarily due to entrenched misconceptions equating HIV with a fatal outcome. Insufficient education about HIV and gender dynamics further exacerbated reluctance, compounded by fears of stigma and discrimination, compelling many people to conceal their HIV status.

Motivations for HIV testing among the youth often stemmed from curiosity or concerns about potential exposure through risky sexual behaviour. Grappling with a positive diagnosis proved daunting for most people. This study underscored the significance of research on youth engagement as a framework for refining voluntary counselling and testing endeavours.