Young people living with HIV evidently enjoy the developmental initiatives and programmes provided by different organisations that are aimed at helping them to think positively and focus on a promising future. But the main problem is that these programmes often do not communicate well regarding HIV.

Caregivers and parents are still afraid of telling their children that they are HIV positive and to respond to their children’€™s questions on living with AIDS. Some may fear confusing children or putting their children lives in danger. Others fear that their children will tell others and this will lead to them experiencing discrimination.

Some parents fear that they might destroy the bond they have with their children if they tell them about their HIV status. Other parents are still living with the denial about their own status.

Parents and caregivers find themselves telling incomplete stories about HIV/AIDS infection, which results in them distorting significant information.

There is an urgent need for a capacity-building programme to assist parents and caregivers to be open to their children about AIDS. It needs to look at issues such as building trust, how a child relates to a challenging environment, moral support from family and children’€™s relationships with neighbours and the community.

If parents and caregivers feel that they are equipped to tell children about their HIV/AIDS status, this can eliminate confusion and anxiety.

There is also a need to educate teachers about needs of pupils living with HIV and how to accommodate such pupils within the school environment. This initiative must not simply be given to life orientation teachers.

Many children on anti-retroviral treatment perform badly at school work due to poor concentration. This could be associated the effects of the virus on the nerves.

Other children are withdrawn because they have been stigmatised by their peers, while some may have a severe skin rash.

Some children do not know about ARVs as they are just forced to take treatment without a proper explanation by their parents or health practitioners, especially children who are between the ages of 6 and 12 years old.

This kind of behavior is against the Children’€™s Act, as their right to information has been violated and ignored, especially if it affects their own lives

Interventions are needed to strengthen the children’€™s developmental programmes, re-instate a sense of belonging, heal invisible wounds and, give parents the courage to face the reality.

Community health institutions and organisations need to start supportive programmes, such as catch-up programmes to help children to perform better at school. Social workers and childcare workers should focus on building up the social skills and self-assertiveness of children through engaging in a constructive discussion.

ARV treatment centres need to apply creativity in explaining to children what it means to live with HIV and how to adhere to treatment.

Mandla Nyuswa, Programme Co-ordinator, Broadreach Healthcare.


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