Voluntary and confidential counseling and testing for HIV
Voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) is a voluntary process initiated by the clients for voluntary HIV counseling and testing themselves. Еspecially in countries with low HIV rates like ours, where the level of HIV awareness may be low, many people believe that they aren’t at risk for HIV.
VCT services help people understand the one’s risk of HIV, and the importance of knowing one’s HIV status as well as encourage safer behavior to reduce the potential risk of HIV transmission. HERA’s VCT provides voluntary and confidential HIV counselling and testing with two mobile units (suitably equipped vans) in 11 cities around Macedonia, in partnership with 14 citizen associations and 10 health institutions in the country, primarily for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups (young population, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, sex workers, prisoners and other populations in need of this service).
VCT allows the client to receive voluntary counselling, which helps him/her to make an informed choice about his/her own HIV status and take appropriate actions after learning about it. The counselling allows the client, through discussion with the counselor, to analyze his/her own risk of HIV transmission and learn how to reduce the risk, as well as learn more about HIV and HIV testing in general.
The counselling takes place in the form of pre-HIV test counselling and post-HIV test counselling. During the pre-HIV test counselling, the counsellor offers each clientthe opportunity to his/her personal situation and to decide whether to get tested for HIV. Each client decides on one’s own whether to take an HIV test based on the information and the support provided by counselor. Post-HIV test counseling helps the clients understand the HIV test result, explore the possibilities with whom they can share their HIV test results, identify which steps to be made next to reduce the risk of further transmission i.e. of HIV infection.
The functioning of our VCT service is in line with the following principles:
- Voluntariness – The client decides on his/her own, upon the information received during the pre-HIV test counselling, whether to get tested for HIV.
- Confidentiality – Information shared during counselling, including the HIV test result, may not be shared with other people, except at the request of the client. Also, keeping records and further processing of data guarantees the confidentiality of the client.
- Testing is performed with a rapid HIV test using capillary blood sample (finger-prick blood sample). The rapid HIV test provides results within 15 minutes.
- Privacy – The physical environment in the VCT service provides for a private discussion between the client and the counselor.
- Equality – All clients of the VCT service are treated equally regardless of their HIV status, social status, education, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity or religious affiliation, any kind of disability or any other feature.