Helping young Tanzanians access HIV testing and care services

June 20, 2018

Last week, M4ID collaborated with Tanzanian partners and other experts to gain deeper understanding of  adolescents’ views on HIV.

M4ID’s Next T project continues to make developments in improving access to HIV testing and care for Tanzanian adolescents and young adults. After steady data collection, M4ID moved onto a new and exciting chapter of the project last week—we hosted a synthesis workshop in order to start the process of transforming the data into insights, design drivers, and an overall foundation to begin constructing viable plans that can lead to solutions.

The synthesis workshop allowed M4ID to collaborate with Tanzanian partners, as well as local experts on HIV and Tanzania. Together, an array of challenges were identified that translate into a young person’s disinclination to get tested for HIV.

Factors that prevent young Tanzanians from accessing proper HIV testing and care

One of the insights that was found was that adolescents and young adults avoided testing for fear of confidentiality breaches. In addition to distrusting providers’ commitments to confidentiality, both males and females simply fear being spotted by acquaintances should they go to a testing place.

Another obstacle to providing proper HIV treatment to adolescents and young adults is that they avoid being tested if they fear positive results. There is also a large gap between dictated social norms and the reality of how people actually live. This contradiction is particularly difficult for women and girls, as they are continually taught to practice abstinence, but this is simply not realistic.

Thanks to further input from our partners, we also learned about the deep fear surrounding a positive HIV status. HIV is too often equated with imminent death and no treatment options. Young adults in Tanzania also fear reputation loss and how society will treat them if they test positive. This is understandable because we also learned that even healthcare providers often admit they feel conflicted because they are simultaneously uncomfortable with young people being sexually active, yet they also feel concerned for their health.

Applying these insights to the future of this project

As the Next T project strives to create solutions to these complex challenges in HIV testing and treatment, we are grateful to have received important insight and perspectives from our Tanzanian partners. As M4ID’s Design Research Lead, Shruti Ramiah, put it: “Having our Tanzanian partners involved in the synthesis process was invaluable – their input helped us clarify nuances that might have been lost in translation such as the expression HIV is like oil or the colloquial way HIV is referred to as music. They gave us direction and helped us develop more robust insights.”

Read more about the Next T project here.