Increasing the number of men who test for HIV in the post-schooling sector has been a key challenge since the launch of the First Things First program (FTF) in 2011. The FTF programme which contributes to the objectives of the National Strategic Plan for HIV, STIs and TB seeks to maximise opportunities for testing for HIV using rapid finger prick tests.
Over the past few years, female students have dominated the testing numbers with males always falling at 30% or below of those who tested. Last year saw this number rise for the first time, with the uptake of males who tested nationally at universities reaching a new precedent of 36%.
Alex Semba, HEAIDS Project Manager said a couple of strategies assisted in increasing male participation in testing drives. Mr. Semba and his team planned and facilitated thematically targeted interventions for young men. This included dialogues and targeted initiatives at Sports Days on various campuses.
The targeted location of testing facilities at locations that are frequented by men on campuses also assisted, with emphasis being placed on male residences and faculties that have majority male students. Proximity and accessibility remain central to all HIV/AIDS mitigation strategies.
“It took several integrated approaches to increase the number of males testing. The location, messaging and deliberate targeting has yielded results. The dialogues were aimed specifically at male students also proved to be really fruitful spaces for men to mobilise and engage in safe places about fears, concerns and lived experience”-according to Mr. Semba.
He added that; “In 2018, we plan to strengthen these initiatives so young men can begin to take decisive action in ensuring their own health. We implore all young men on campus to feel free to add and advise around what could make testing more youth male friendly. We look forward to working with our peer educators, learners and staff to keep the number rising. ”