Protect Adolescents Living With HIV


    Health care givers are calling for collaborative efforts to protect and support adolescents living with HIV.

    The viral loads of these adolescents in second cycle institutions are reported to be on the increase because of the high tendency to skip their medications.

    Ghana started the Prevention of the Mother to Child Transmission of the HIV intervention in 2004. Prior to the intervention, HIV mothers transmitted the virus to their children during birth.

    There are thousands of such innocent babies who are now adolescents and adults.

    Some of these adolescents living with HIV are in the basic and second cycle institutions but their status not known to their teachers for the needed support.

    Meet Abena, not her real name. She is 14 years old and has HIV. She is in JHS Three.

    She was shattered when her mother disclosed her status to her at age 13.

    Abena thought she’ll die but through counseling, she braced herself up to face the future.

    Abena’s siblings know of her status but they do not stigmatize her in anyway.

    Her only challenge is the side-effects of taking her medication.

    She gets drowsy and weak but cannot confide in any of her friends and teachers for support.

    Fifteen-year old Beatrice is also in final year at JHS. None of her two siblings and her step-dad is aware of her status. Her mum has warned her to keep it as a secret for fear of being divorced.

    Luckily she does not feel dizzy and weak as some of her colleagues.

    But to save her mother’s marriage, she hides the medication in her luggage and takes them on the blind side of the step-dad.
    On normal clinic days, about 50 adolescents are received at the Anti-Retroviral Clinic at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

    These adolescents need family support to go through their medications.But this is often lacking.
    Medical doctor, Dr Lotenna Elsie Kalu, is worried most of the adolescents in second cycle institutions fail to take their medications on schedule.

    The patients also lack unable to disclose their status to their teachers for support.

    There is a call for the Ministries of Education and Health and the Ghana AIDS Commission to devise a policy document for students to disclose their HIV status to their teachers without fear of stigmatization.

    Head of the KATH Anti-Retroviral Clinic Pharmacy, Rev Raphael Kwaku Obeng, says teachers can help the patients deal with side effects such as hallucination, drowsiness, nightmares, amongst others.

    He believes the time has come for teachers to know the HIV status of their students to collectively support these adolescents.

    Beatrice Spio-Garbrah|TV3|Ghana

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