By Christabel Akankwatsa
December 1, was World AIDS Day.
According to the health ministry report of 2014, HIV prevalence among young women aged 15-24 in Uganda was estimated at 3.72%. Most of them are on medication while others are not.
Girls in schools face discrimination and stigma while taking ARVs and nutrition is not the best, which contributes to ineffectiveness of drugs.
HIV-positive girls face various challenges; as adolescents, naturally they begin engaging into relationships with boys and some find it hard to disclose about their HIV status. This has greatly affected their adherence to treatment.
It is more problematic when the girls are total orphans; some caretakers harass them, despite the ongoing sensitisation on stigmatisation. Some guardians even start informing whoever cares to listen, how they are taking care of the HIV-positive girls who lost their parents or who were neglected by their parents and are HIV-positive.
Some fail transport to get their ARVs from the health centres. Some care takers are not responsible enough to support them. But again others truly lack transport.
Some girls lack ongoing counseling and adherence assessment and yet taking ARVs daily is a lifetime commitment.
"The I don't care attitude or getting tired of supporting these women by the family members or treatment supporters has affected all HIV positives compared to those who have been loved and supported.
Those getting support and care are living happily and take their ARVs well. In fact they have improved greatly immunologically, clinically and even the virus is not detectable.”
Absence of psychosocial support has led some HIV infected girls to commit suicide because they think that their future is ruined.
Disclosure is supposed to be done by the client herself and to the people of her choice unless is young, but under some circumstances it's done without her consent. Besides the young girl keeps asking why she takes drugs yet her friends are not taking them.
This is common to children who acquired HIV from their parents or from other sources and they are not yet disclosed to. This does not only affect their performance in class but also their adherence to treatment.
All people infected by HIV, especially young women should meet a counsellor regularly. The family should know that its role is fundamental in supporting them to take their medicines properly, to stop discriminating them, avoid hurting words in their presence and most importantly loving them continuously and showing them that they are still of value and there is still hope.
It's important to know that HIV is no longer a threat as it was in the early 1980s and 1990s because today a lot has been done and even we have the ARVs.
Girls should be empowered with skills that can enable them earn a living. This can be added on their transport and improve on their livelihood.
They need to participate closely in related activities so that they can learn more about HIV/AIDS and how someone can live positively with HIV. At the time of ART initiation a lot should be emphasized, especially the school and the family situation.
The government should appreciate and consider the role of a professional counselor in the area of HIV/AIDS for their support to infected and affected individuals. These girls need to be continuously helped in order to disclose to their people even when married, for support. And so they need to keep in touch with their counselors for better results and improved adherence.
The writer is a programme manager of the Women Health Concern