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Arizona Doctoral Candidate Leads a Study on Predictors on HIV Testing among Youth in Sub-Saharan Africa

Globally, significant progress has been made in efforts to address the burden of the Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), leading to a 38 percent reduction in new infections since 2001. In spite of this remarkable advancement, HIV remains particularly devastating for adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 years who account for approximately 50 percent of all new HIV infections and 33 percent of persons living with HIV/AIDS globally. Globally, there is an estimated 1.2 billion adolescents (10-19 year-olds), constituting 18 percent of the world’s population. Available evidence shows that about 2.2 million of these (60 percent of them, female) are living with HIV, and many are unaware of their infection.

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[Photo: Ms. Ibitola Asaolu]

To assess factors that influence uptake of HIV testing and counseling among youth aged 15-24 years in sub-Saharan Africa, Ibitola Asaolu, doctoral candidate in the Family and Child program of the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health analyzed Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data on 23,367 male and female respondents aged 15-24 years from countries that represent four geographic regions of sub-Saharan Africa: Congo (Brazzaville), representing central Africa (DHS 2011-2012); Mozambique, representing southern Africa (DHS 2011); Nigeria, representing western Africa (DHS 2013); and Uganda, representing eastern Africa (DHS 2011).

As the results showed, only a limited proportion of respondents (36.5 percent) had ever tested for HIV and even fewer (25.7 percent) demonstrated comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS. There was significant association between HIV testing and respondents’ gender, age, age at sexual debut, and comprehensive knowledge of HIV in the pooled sample. Older youth (adjusted OR (aOR) = 2.19; 99% CI = 1.99-2.40) and those with comprehensive knowledge of HIV (aOR = 1.98; 1.76-2.22) had significantly higher odds of ever being tested for HIV than younger respondents and those with limited HIV/AIDS knowledge respectively. Furthermore, men had lower odds of HIV testing than women (aOR = 0.32; 0.28-0.37).

Commenting on their findings, Ibitola and her coauthors concluded that public health programs that seek to increase HIV counseling and testing among youth should pay particular attention to efforts that target high-risk subpopulations of youth. They noted that these initiatives would be strengthened by including strategies to increase HIV comprehensive knowledge.

The article, “Predictors of HIV Testing among Youth in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Cross-Sectional Study”, was published in October 5 issue of PLoS ONE 11(10): e0164052. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.016405. The article can be accessed at the following link: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/asset?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0164052.PDF