Protect children from HIV

2018-05-09 06:00
Mpho Lekhetho Photo: Supplied

Mpho Lekhetho Photo: Supplied

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If only couples would have themselves tested and know their HIV status before they even think of planning a family, we could be able to reduce the number of children born with HIV.

Today there are programmes in place, like those for the prevention of mother to child transmission and treatment as a prevention measure. How­ever, sadly, children are still born with HIV in this era.

These poor kids are on life-long treatment (anti­retroviral drugs, more commonly known as ARV’s) and some do not know what it is for, simply because parents or guardians do not have the guts to tell them from the outset.

What is frustrating, is that most stop taking the drugs when they become teenagers.

HIV may be a boring topic today, but the truth is, the AIDS crisis is not over yet. During a dialogue with some kids, they revealed how tired they were of taking treatment.

We all know that taking pills are tiring. You can imagine, if adults get tired, how a child must feel.

As they grow and realise that these are ARV’s, they become angry and loose trust in their parents or guardians, which increases the chances of them stopping treatment or committing suicide.

The poor teenager will be battling with issues normally experienced by going through stages, while being vulnerable to peer pressure as well in their effort to fit in – but how do you fit in with HIV?

Some even tend to resort to drugs made from their ARV’s, after being forced by their peers to provide this for nyaope.

The parents of these children are always battling with breaking the ice, using the wrong platforms and choosing the wrong time to communicate with their kids.

In the John Taolo Gaetsewe District, we have decided to create awareness and platforms for parents caring for these children.

Because of stigma and the sensitivity of the programme, we find it difficult to proceed. However, we continue, as it is in the best interest of the children.

These challenges were revealed only recently, because the programmes available used to be mostly for adults. Even after Nkosi Johnson’s death (may his soul rest in peace), programmes for kids were not introduced. Thus they grew up thinking HIV only affects is for adults.

Today, if you ask a child if he or she can play with an HIV positive child, he or she will say “only if I don’t know”. What is that telling us? This takes us back to where we left off from.

Girls of this vulnerable groups tend to fall prey to teenage pregnancy, while boys develop anger and bitterness, mostly at school. This whole drama contributes low self-esteem and low confidence, as girls tend to become deformed by the side effects of treatment – something not noticed earlier.

To cut a long story short: Can we be kind and use the available options and services or programmes to prevent HIV transmission from parent to child?

It is cheaper to prevent HIV transmission than raising an HIV positive child. Having a child who is not well or healthy, is a burden in itself, but if coupled with a stigmatised disease, the situation is even more complicated.

If you find this note not relevant or not making sense, it is okay.

All I am saying is that these children need our support, and they deserve to be loved and to be told the truth at the right time (in line with the Children’s Act, of course).


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