South Africa – the country with the largest HIV treatment programme globally – provides treatment and care to all those living with HIV, but the stark reality is that many do not start or remain on this life-saving treatment.
This World AIDS Day, global leaders and citizens are asked to ‘End inequalities. End AIDS’ (who.int, 2021), with a special focus on reaching people left behind – including children and adolescents. It is these children and adolescents living with HIV that are at the centre of everything we do; driving our work with rural health workers to improve the services that these young people receive.
The challenges we face are huge. Because infants and children are reliant on the support and care of their caregivers to take their medication, many drop out of care when family members move away or choose to stop their own treatment. Some resist taking treatment because they don’t understand why they must take it. Talking with children and adolescents about their HIV is essential if we want them to keep taking their medication – this is one of our key activities where we are seeing a real and positive change!
For adolescents, who are growing up, entering adulthood and increasing their independence from adult caregivers, they are often unaware of the cost to their health and future opportunities if they stop treatment or simply tired of taking medication for so many years. They also face the harsh realities of stigma and shame at a time of their lives when the opinions of their peers is so important, leading many to stop taking their treatment to hide their HIV status from their friends.
Building the knowledge and skills of frontline health workers to understand the specific needs of children and adolescents is essential to ensure that they prevent them being lost to HIV treatment and care services.
CHIVA Africa is proud to work with frontline health workers to build their knowledge and skills to ensure that their vulnerable young populations are engaged and retained in treatment and care. Working together, we can end the inequalities faced by all children and adolescents – including those living with HIV – and strengthen our HIV prevention efforts to finally end AIDS.
For more information on CHIVA Africa, please visit: Donate | Chiva South Africa | Mentoring. Partnering. Saving Lives. (chiva-africa.org)