Potential for abuse in the VCT counselling room: service provider's perceptions in Kenya

C Hamilton, D Okoko, R Tolhurst, N Kilonzo, S Theobald, M Taegtmeyer
2008 Health Policy and Planning  
The rapid scale-up of HIV counselling and testing programmes in Kenya has led to quality concerns, including the potential for abuse within the private, confidential setting of client-initiated voluntary counselling and testing (VCT). A qualitative study was conducted in three provinces of Kenya, involving 26 VCT service providers and 13 key informants. First and second hand accounts of emotional, physical and sexual abuse emerged in all three study sites in spite of measures to mitigate such
more » ... currences. Whilst uncommon, abuse was perceived by service providers to be serious and sufficiently widespread to raise significant concerns. Abuse occurred client to counsellor, from counsellor to client and from counsellor to counsellor. In all cases the person suffering the abuse was female. While the potential for abuse was demonstrated in VCT sites, we argue that experiences of abuse are not confined to VCT and are largely shaped by gender and power relations within the Kenyan cultural context. The international impetus for scale-up of HIV services provides an urgent rationale for the need to address and highlight these difficult issues at multiple levels. International guidelines, policy and methods need adapting in recognition of the potential for abuse. Systems for investigating and deregistering counsellors have been developed in Kenya but require formalizing. Institutions providing VCT should consider unlocked doors, semi-opaque windows and the use of 'mystery clients' as a quality assurance measure.
doi:10.1093/heapol/czn029 pmid:18701551 fatcat:ub5arc7d3jfqvhfjveavguyx5y