Apr 4, 2014

A family of 4 (including 2 teenagers) committed suicide in Namakkal - What went wrong?

What went wrong?
In the recent incident in Namakkal district, a family committing suicide due to HIV and AIDS was a shocking instance to many, especially the agencies working in the field of HIV and AIDS. 
http://www.ndtv.com/article/south/aids-afflicted-couple-two-teenage-children-commit-suicide-in-tamil-nadu-502698
As a center working with children and adolescents living with and affected by HIV and AIDS and their care takers, we had a small group discussion with young volunteers (HIV infected and affected adolescents) and women living with HIV. We first discussed on the causes and then the solutions one can do prevent such instances in the future, the discussion points are presented below;

Causes:
1. Self stigma
The fear of being stigmatized and discriminated by the community is the strongest reason .
 “though I am aware of the transmission routes,because of the moralistic connotation they link HIV with I still fear how my neighbors will treat me and my children after knowing my HIV status”.
2. Lack of adequate information about living positively and early disclosure:
There should be more focused information built during the counseling process and disclosure process should be encouraged to the first person diagnosed in the family; in this case the man and counseling should be given to the family as a whole.
3. Lack of Awareness in school:
Awareness is only around the transmission routes and not the care of people already living with HIV. Information are mostly fear based and hence stigma is strong against people and children living with HIV.

Solutions:
1. Meaningful support groups of people living with HIV and young children:
This helps people living with HIV and children to meet others like them and that builds confidence about living with HIV.This further helps in breaking the self stigma of each individual as being in the support group makes you feel more accepted.
2. Counseling should cater to the family as a whole:
Family counseling is essential,even if the children are not infected it is important that they also have the right information about HIV and that helps them support their parents better.
3. Counseling should encourage disclosure :
The first person tested in the family should be encouraged with skills on disclosure which can prevent new infections or early treatment for the other member in the family.
4. School Awareness should be around de-stigmatising HIV
Current information provides knowledge on HIV ,but information that encourages support towards people living with HIV is important .

“I am living with HIV, but I am scared to share my status to my friends in schools ,because the information they have is very moralistic and fear based”.

Buds of Christ is running special support groups for adolescents living with HIV, adolescents who have lost parents to HIV and widow mothers living with HIV in Namakkal. During these meetings, adolescents living with and orphaned are empowered to live life with dignity and respect. Many young people are now volunteers in sharing their testimonies to other children affected like them.

Stay in touch with us, and be part of living life positively....

Feb 10, 2014

I have realized that life can begin again

 “I have realized that life can begin again and neither HIV nor TB can affect my future.” - shared after meeting the peer members of the support group of adolescents living with HIV

Thalapathy, 15 years old is a HIV positive adolescent and studying 10th in a government school. He is living with his widowed mother who is also living with HIV. His father died of AIDS when he was three years old and Thalapathy has not been informed of his HIV status.

Though he was affected from birth, his mother had been very protective of him. He was not provided with information related to HIV and because his immunity was good, he was not advised treatment either.
Recently, he had complaints of severe head-ache, weight loss and blood vomit that shook both his mother and himself that he approached Buds of Christ center. He was immediately taken to the government hospital and in the routine testing, it was found that his immunity had become low and thus he was further affected by Tuberculosis. This became a big shock for him, as he had just come to know about his status and that he had to take treatment for the two infections (HIV and TB).

Initially he found it hard to adjust to the treatment, as the side effects were very severe. But when he met with the peer members of the support group who shared their experiences of taking treatment and how their health conditions have improved; he was assured that these symptoms were only for a short-while and he can live life with dignity and hope. He is regular now on both the Treatments (HIV and TB) and is fervent in an ambition that he would share with children like him living with HIV, how he overcame his life challenges.

He also adds that “I have a dream and I am sure I will definitely achieve it. I thought I was going to die , and the side effects caused me more pain. But when I met friends like me living with HIV and coping so positively I now have the hope and I have realized that life can begin again.”