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Original Research

HIV counselling and testing in secondary schools: What students want

Estelle Lawrence, Patricia Struthers, Geert van Hove

Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine; Vol 16, No 1 (2015), 6 pages. doi: 10.4102/sajhivmed.v16i1.390

Submitted: 01 May 2015
Published:  05 November 2015


Background: HIV counselling and testing (HCT) is an essential element in the response to the HIV epidemic. There are still major research gaps about the best ways to provide HCT, especially to the youth, and school-based HCT is a model that has been suggested. To make HCT youth friendly and to enhance access to the service, the particular needs of the youth need to be addressed.

Aim: To explore the expressed needs of students about school-based HCT service provision.

Method: The study was conducted in 6 secondary schools in Cape Town where a mobile HCT service is provided by a non-governmental organisation. In each school, two mixed-gender focus groups were held, one with grades 8 and 9 students and one with grades 10 and 11. A total of 91 students aged 13–21 were involved. The focus groups were conducted in the students’ home language. All groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and translated into English.

Results: Content data analysis was done and the following themes emerged: (1) Where the students want HCT to be done, (2) How they want HCT to be done and (3) Who should do the counselling. Most students want HCT to be provided in schools on condition that their fears and expressed needs are taken into account. They raised concerns regarding privacy and confidentiality, and expressed the need to be given information regarding HCT before testing is done. They wanted staff providing the service to be experienced and trained to work with youth, and they wanted students who tested positive to be followed up and supported.

Conclusion: To increase youth utilisation of the HCT service, their expressed needs should be taken into account when developing a model for school-based HCT.

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Author affiliations

Estelle Lawrence, School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, South Africa; Department of Health, Provincial Government of the Western Cape, South Africa
Patricia Struthers, School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Geert van Hove, Department of Special Education, Ghent University, Belgium


HIV/AIDS, HIV counselling and testing (HCT), voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), youth, students, school, youth friendly


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ISSN: 1608-9693 (print) | ISSN: 2078-6751 (online)

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