USIU-Africa Counseling Centre hosts VCT Week
By Lydia Winda
From July 3 to July 7, 2023, USIU-Africa's Counseling Center and the VCT-Week Committee organized the Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) Week, held every Summer and Fall semester to raise awareness and prioritize students' health and well-being. The event took place at Parking Lot B and provided a safe and confidential space for students to undergo free HIV testing, free Breast & Cervical Cancer Screening, and receive professional STIs & Contraceptive Counseling services. The university collaborated with healthcare professionals and organizations to ensure competent testing and comprehensive counseling on sexual and reproductive health-related issues for the USIU-Africa community.
Throughout the week, a series of informative sessions, workshops, and engaging activities were organized to educate students about HIV prevention, abstinence, safer sex practices, the importance of regular testing, and access to inclusive medical services. The VCT Week Committee played an active role in organizing the event, fostering a culture of openness, acceptance, and responsibility. This empowered individual to make informed decisions about their reproductive health and actively contributed to building a healthier campus community.
The primary objectives of VCT Week were clearly defined. The first was to raise awareness among students about the importance of HIV testing and Breast & Cervical Cancer Screening, emphasizing the significance of knowing one's HIV status and the benefits of early detection. The event also aimed to reduce the stigma associated with HIV testing by creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment, promoting acceptance, and fostering understanding.
VCT Week provided comprehensive services to students, including HIV testing, Breast & Cervical Cancer Screening, pre- and post-test counseling, and access to relevant information about prevention, treatment, and support services. The event aimed to empower members of the USIU-Africa community by providing them with accurate and up-to-date information on HIV&AIDS, promoting responsible sexual behavior, and fostering a sense of personal responsibility for their health and the health of their community.
The impact of VCT Week was evident throughout the event. Despite Tuesday being a public holiday, the uptake of VCT services and breast and cervical cancer screening was high, indicating progress towards meeting the set targets. Various activities were organized to engage the community, including a balloon popping game where questions were placed inside balloons. Participants were encouraged to pop the balloons, read the questions, and respond. This game served as a vital educational tool on sexual and reproductive health-related issues. A photo booth was set up with thematic messages encouraging people to spread hope to those infected and affected by HIV and to motivate individuals to know their HIV status. Colorful post-it pads were also provided for community members to write messages of hope and encouragement to those affected by HIV.
In addition, the event included edutainment games such as the condom game, aimed at normalizing conversations about condom usage and teaching correct protection methods for those unable to abstain. Visitors to the event were sensitized about various HIV prevention methods, including abstinence, condom use, faithfulness, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and the importance of adhering to antiretroviral medication.
With the reported increase in HIV prevalence among youth, it is crucial to continue conducting sexual and reproductive health sensitization activities. The organizers expressed gratitude to their partners, including AHF-Kenya, FHOK, USAID Fahari ya Jamii, Youth Changers, and KISS Condoms, who played pivotal roles in the success of Reproductive Health Week through their support, both in cash and in kind. The collaboration and support of these organizations contributed to the overall impact and effectiveness of the event in promoting awareness and ensuring the well-being of the USIU-Africa community.