ODIBO - In Namibia, teen clubs help provide adolescents who live with HIV a positive space to gather socially—and help health centres reach the growing number of HIV-positive teenagers who need emotional and psychological support in addition to medical treatment. Odibo Health Centre established a teen club in 2013 to better meet the unique needs of adolescents living with HIV, increase their adherence to treatment, and achieve viral suppression in the Odibo district. The club meets once a month. Since its inception, the teen club has helped 60 HIV-positive adolescents improve antiretroviral treatment (ART) adherence and retention in care; 53 of these teens have achieved viral suppression.
Selma Immanuel* is a member of the St. Mary’s Health Centre (Odibo) teen club. It played a significant role in her journey to adhere to ART. She’s hoping her story will help other HIV-positive adolescents who are struggling with adherence. These are her words:
“Although I was born with the virus, I only learned that I was HIV-positive in 2010, when I was 10-years old. I could not understand why I had to take a lot of pills and always accompany my granny to the hospital for check-ups.”
“Then I asked her one day, she told me I was HIV-positive, but I didn’t understand the seriousness of taking my medication and the impact it could have on my life. “
“I can’t remember when I started taking antiretrovirals (ARVs), but I can recall years filled with sickness. I remember the health worker telling my granny during one of my hospital visits that my CD4 count was very low and my viral load very high. I didn’t understand what that meant, but the nurse told my granny that the results didn’t look good and I was about to die.”
“In 2014, during one of my hospital visits, one of the nurses told me about a teen club and encouraged me to join. At first, I was very reluctant, but eventually, I decided to give it a try. Apart from the usual HIV and AIDS education, the teen club also provides adolescents living with HIV with psychosocial support, nutrition, sexual and reproductive health education and peer mentorship, peer support, specialised counselling, and adherence strategies. We also collect our HIV medication on Tuesdays.”
“It is here that I learned that I was not alone. The club is vital; it makes you forget about HIV and makes you feel happy about life, seeing peers who share the same experiences that you do. Through participation in the club, I learned that HIV treatment is not just about taking ARVs every day. It is also about having a healthy mind.”
“Through the teen club, I learned techniques that improved my adherence to treatment, and I can now share my treatment life with other youths at my school and motivate them to adhere as well. I now understand that by taking my medication, I can live a normal life; and it’s much easier than being sick.”
‘When I joined the club, my viral load was 44,742 copies, which meant I was about to die. Today, I can proudly say that my viral load is less than 20 copies. The ARVs saved my life. My life has changed for the better ever since I joined the teen club.” IntraHealth is working with the government of Namibia to increase the number of health workers providing HIV services and provide the support and training they need to reach the country’s goal of an AIDS-free generation. IntraHealth’s USAID HIV Clinical Services Technical Assistance Project in Namibia is funded by the US Agency for International Development, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Response (PEPFAR).
* Name has been changed.
Valery Mwashekele is a Senior Communications Officer at IntraHealth International
New Era Reporter
2018-11-19 09:55:25 5 months ago