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The rising incidence of infection among youth in sub-Saharan Africa makes HIV-related research among younger people a top priority. There remains, however, a lack of consistent and unambiguous ethical principles and guidance for researchers wishing to conduct HIV studies with adolescents. The overarching aim of our research was to better understand youths’ experiences with HIV studies. The present study explored four questions: (1) What strategies are effective for recruiting youth for HIV studies? (2) What motivates youth to participate in these studies? (3) How do study participants perceive HIV testing within the context of a research study? (4) What do participants understand about the risks of study participation? These data are essential to inform guidelines for the responsible conduct of research with young people. We interviewed 82 adolescents (aged 15–19) in Kenya taking part in a study examining ethical issues pertaining to their involvement in HIV-related research. Pursuant to our research questions, we found that direct study recruitment combined with encouragement from female relatives was the greatest facilitator to study enrolment among young people. Most young participants expressed that they were motivated to join the study in order to (1) learn their HIV status (n = 49) and (2) receive HIV-related education (n = 26), even though both are already free and widely available. Participants largely preferred testing in a place they deemed “private,” although both the health clinic and home were regarded by adolescents as locations with greater privacy. Adolescents largely did not accurately perceive risks of the study two months after baseline, although they could remember the benefits with great clarity. This work can inform researchers, policymakers, and ethics review committees on approaches to maximize efficiency in recruitment and data collection, and to enhance understanding of risks and benefits in HIV-related research among adolescents. While further research is needed, these data may be used by others conducting HIV research in this region to improve recruitment strategies and more effectively engage and appeal to young people.