What about growing adolescents living with HIV? - The emerging need
The advancements in care and treatment for HIV has brought in hope to many children and young people living with HIV, to live and contribute much to the society. As this success is seen,the challenge in helping children born with HIV and who have grown into adolescence is often neglected in our current programmes. The issue becomes more complex for adolescents ,especially girls from lower income group , and under the care of grandparents and widowed mothers. The reason being, mostly of the adolescents show lack of interest in studies and often perform poor in academics. Thanks to the department of education in allowing children pass till their 9th grade that they go to school, but in their 10th grade, most of them have not been able to pass the grade .On comparing the performance of adolescents enrolled with the center, more number of girls have failed than the boys.
Such girls, especially those brought up by grandparents; do not show interest in pursuing their studies further and with limited opportunities for other vocational courses (if one has failed) most of them have to be in their homes.This has resulted in greater vulnerabilities,especially among young girls in rural areas where marriages younger than 15 years of age are common.In addition most often the adolescents become the care takers and decision-makers at homes headed by grandparents.This has resulted young girls living with HIV to engage in casual and sexual relationships .Some have gone further in arranging marriages on their own and without informing the partner their status.
Recently within a span of three months ,we have come across two instances of a 15 year old and 17 year old young girls living with HIV who have failed in their 10th exams and looked after by their grandparents have got engaged in such relationships. In one instance when we visited the family we learnt that the grandparents were not aware of the HIV transmission routes, especially through sexual intercourse and had thought ARV medicines as a cure for HIV. In both the instances, the girls themselves have taken decisions and gone ahead with marriages.
Positive prevention education for young people living with HIV is essential and very crucial at the moment.
The emerging needs:
- Hospitals to be made more youth friendly for young adolescents living with HIV to access information about HIV and their health
- Equipping counselors with information and skills in handling adolescent children
- Partnerships with CBO’s and NGO’s strengthened to ensure effective follow-up of young people and their care takers
- Effective programmes, like life skills, support groups for young people to help them plan and make responsible and safe choices of their future.
- Care takers, especially grandparents have to be oriented on the complete details of HIV.