FEAR OF STIGMA

Graduates shy away from HIV partner notification service - study

The findings conform to other studies which have found higher education level to be associated with HIV testing

In Summary
  • Astudy conducted in Kisumu by local researchers found that the highly educated emerged as a stronger risk group of not participating in the programme.
  • According to the researchers, the latest findings conform to other studies which have found higher education level to be associated with HIV testing.
A person being tested for HIV
A person being tested for HIV
Image: FILE

Kenyans with a diploma or degree are less likely to participate in HIV Assisted Partner Notification Services (aPNS), a new study shows.

aPNS involves tracing and offering HIV testing to partners of HIV-positive individuals.

It is effective and safe when provided to newly diagnosed HIV-positive patients.

Voluntary aPNS is now part of the World Health Organization's guidelines for HIV prevention and care.

But a study conducted in Kisumu by local researchers found that the highly educated emerged as a stronger risk group of not participating in the programme as a client's decision to provide partner information may depend on the level of education.

The study was conducted among 423 participants in 2020 in Seme and Kisumu West subcounties among HIV positive participants aged above 18 years attending Kombewa, Manyuanda and Chulaimbo health facilities.

According to the research findings published in the African Journal of Health Sciences, the selected facilities accounted for a larger proportion of the clients on care in the two subcounties.

“Lack of trust in the HIV testing and counselling counsellor may lead many to fear a breach of confidentiality, which in turn affects participating in aPNS,” the study shows.

“Furthermore the embarrassment and fears of stigma in the community came out strongly as a big hindrance to participating,” it adds.

Sampling was based on the target population of 9,942 individuals as per the population profile of Seme and Kisumu West subcounties.

Structured questionnaires were read out for the participants by the research assistants either English or Dholuo based on the language they best understand.

“HIV status disclosure is considered highly personal and confidential, and from this study, they seemed too concerns that notification without the presence of the index patient may be harmful to the relationship,” the researchers say.

“Participants who cited embarrassment as a barrier were 55 percent more likely not to participate in aPNS compared to those who did not cite embarrassment as a barrier while those who cited stigma as a barrier were 44 percent more likely not to participate.”

According to the researchers, the latest findings conform to other studies which have found higher education level to be associated with HIV testing.

For instance, study interviews at Nairobi's largest public HIV clinic in April to May 2016 found that fear of disclosure to partners included concerns over relationship repercussions, loss of trust, blame and violence.

Stigma and discrimination were described in the healthcare setting,  church and in general society.

Participants described difficulties approaching communication, including cultural barriers and differences in education.

Recent data shows that at least 1.5 million in Kenya are living with HIV, with close to 1.2 million of them being on treatment.

Early this month, the ministry disclosed that the focus will be on girls and young women in its bid to end the HIV-Aids epidemic by 2030.

While the prevalence of HIV is higher in boys than girls from birth up to 14 years, it doubles in girls from 15 years when many become sexually active.

The burden in young women is even greater than three times between the ages of 20-34 years.

“In 2019, programme data showed that 20,362 children aged 10-14 were pregnant,” The National Aids Control Council said in the Kenya Aids Strategic Framework 2020/21-2024/25, which is being rolled out.