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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Post: IAC (First Day of Panels, 2)

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Growing Up with HIV: Transitioning from Childhood to Adolescence to Adulthood

I had HIGH hopes for this panel; something that relates to me personally and that I had been questioning for some time.

What do I have to expect? What resources do I have? Who should I talk to? Are there going to be people who have gone through the motions already talking about their experience?

Well, this was NOT that kind of panel. It was positive in the sense that the presenters were talking about community ACTIONS in their countries in order to assist and educate families and children living with or affected by HIV.

(All presentations are easily summarized.)

Gabriel M. Anabwani (Botswana): Challenges & Coping Mechanisms of HIV Infected School Age Children in Botswana 

The children described are from ages 6-18 years old, HIV positive, and on ARV treatment, all needed parental consent in order to be studied. The study was to help figure out coping strategies for children in school.

The majority of the children were missing school because of doctors and medical appointments, as well as other illnesses. Some were slightly fearful in school because of discrimination within the academic setting.

Anabwani found that there was an increase in psychological problems within children dealing with their HIV status. I can agree to this, but I didn't know how they came across this realization. Possibly if fear, and isolation is presented through the child because of discrimination that could be associated with psychological problems. That is the conclusion I came up with and it makes enough sense.
(Let me know if you have any other theories).

Desiree Salazar (Peru): Psychosocial Changes in Children with HIV in Lima, Peru

The majority of this presentation was in Spanglish. Thank goodness I have a few years of Spanish class under my belt, but she did try her best to keep it consistently in English.

The major points were how the families found it difficult to speak about their diagnosis or their child's diagnosis in the social setting they live within.

Salazar's community program promotes self-care, and reducing stigma with art. Along with that there are educators training community leaders and teachers about stigma and sensitizing them to the situations that an HIV positive child may encounter.

Kudos for community help!

Florin Lazar (Romania):

At this point I got an interesting and to the point history lesson. During the 1990's, while Communism was still prevalent in Romania, due to unsafe and unclean syringes supplied, many babies were infected in hospitals.

Romania is now a low prevalence country. ARV coverage is around 81-83%.

What some children in Romania have experience, if they are HIV positive, is that the families will become over-protective and not send the child to school.

Well, new information obtained! Obviously something is working in the country that their prevalence count has decreased. There seems to be some discrimination and stigma still prevalent if children are kept from school though...

Fabian Cataldo (UK): 10-19 year old children in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

The majority of these children were orphans or with single parents.

Girls with HIV are more likely to leave school. I don't know why this is, but it could be possibly that discrimination is higher against females with HIV than males? It could be the because of the fact later presented that many young, HIV positive, girls arrive pregnant at health services.

What this presentation touched on that the others did not is the sexual and reproductive health of the youth (I'm tired of putting children, youth is such a nicer word) living with HIV. Abstinence based education is strongly enforced. Families are not equip of how to cope or discuss status OR sex. Many children aren't even told why they are taking medications.

Because of the abstinence based education, condoms are not always available or rarely discussed. There is a growing number of community spaces for HIV positive youth to gather and become educated on safe sex practices and other information regarding their status.
Again, kudos for community!

Gary Harper (USA): 18-25 year old youth in Kenya

The main focus has been on perinatal HIV positive youth, but there has been an increase in behaviorally infected youth.

What these youth have found is that in order to cope with their new HIV positive identity, they have to have a social support system. This system includes their partners, friends, healthcare workers, other PWHIV, co-workers/employers, religion, and affirming HIV positive media figures. In order to move forward their social activities have to be able to go back to normal even with their new identity.

 What these youth have found helped is advocating for others and becoming role models themselves.
I agree with this whole system, since the youth are taking their status disclosure and education into their own hands. They become aware that they need support and more services than what is present, but are working to get the community involved in order to continue education and increase a better quality of life.

Overall, this was not the type of panel I was expecting, but still provided interesting information, especially on community based programs for youth living with HIV. What I did find intriguing was the concept of HIV positive media figures being positive role models. That could definitely make a different in a youth's life if there is someone on the big screen that is similar to them.

Jamar Rogers & I

Jamar Rogers & another youth leader, Jeannie Cooper
Which leads into an awesome event that happened at the conference this day as well. Jamar Rogers (from The Voice, Season 2) was actually AT THE CONFERENCE! He performed on stage in the Global Village, then attended the Red Hot Party later in the evening. I was stalking him all day to try and get a picture, and finally I caught him at the party. I was so cheesy. More on point though, he is a media figure now who is open about his status and background, and that appeals to young people. His story is a preventative tool, but also a normalizing tool for youth living with HIV, they can feel less like a shadow or alien on earth if a wonderful person can be so open and successful in the public eye.

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