Being young, positive, and ambitious in the era of HIV/AIDS

Thursday, October 10, 2019
Young ladies at Queen II Youth and Adolescent Center in Maseru
DOC - USAID Southern Africa

 

It makes it more meaningful when young professionals give service to other young people. That helps them connect and feel free to ask whatever questions they have” - Dee Mphafi, Senior Youth Ambassador of the Youth and Adolescent Center

Young and HIV positive

In the “mountain kingdom” of Lesotho, Sbu, Beekay, Limphoza, and Bobo** have completed high school and have ambitions to study more in their dream of becoming professional young women. Beekay and Bobo are new mothers to three-month old babies. All four are HIV positive.

They attend the Youth and Adolescent Center for information, support, and motivation to take their HIV antiretrovirals (ARVs) so they can live fruitful lives and encourage their partners, if infected, to do the same..

How they got to know about the Youth & Adolescent Center

After seeking antenatal care at a local hospital, Beekay, 19 years old, found out she was HIV positive. She was advised to go to the Youth and Adolescent Center for continuous care and support. 

At 23 years old, Sbu developed a rash all over her body that looked like a possible allergic reaction. She came to Queen II hospital to seek treatment, where she tested HIV positive. She was also advised to go to the Youth and Adolescent Center for treatment, care, and support. Sbu made sure to tell her partner, who tested negative.

Limphoza, 22 years old, regularly tested for HIV at rapid testing centers around town. Recently, she tested positive. Frustrated by her results, local caregivers advised her to take treatment immediately. She also went to Queen II Hospital for treatment and counselling. Later, she became a member of the Youth and Adolescent Center. Unfortunately, her partner still refuses to go for testing.

Bobo is 24 years old, and just like Limphoza, she tested negative during her previous relationships. About a year ago, she fell pregnant. Her partner and her decided to go for tests to confirm the pregnancy and also took HIV tests. The results revealed that she was HIV negative, but her partner tested positive. The healthcare professionals advised her to find out about Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, also known as PREP, to protect herself and the baby from infection. At Queen II hospital, she was tested again, and the results were positive. She was immediately put on treatment and also advised to join the Youth and Adolescent Center for support and care. She gave birth at a private facility where her status was kept confidential. Equipped with information from the Youth and Adolescent Center on her status and what needs to be done after childbirth, she asked her caregivers to provide her baby with antiretroviral medication (Nevirapine) to prevent mother to child transmission after birth. 

Message to the youth

Difficult as it may sound, all of them are looking forward to living healthy and long lives without fear. This was made possible by the care and support they continue to receive at the Youth and Adolescent Center. By staying on treatment, they will be able to live their lives fully and accomplish anything they wish. 

They are also spreading the word about services at the center and encouraging other young people among the community to know their status. Their message to the youth is “unprotected sex is very dangerous, if you can’t use condoms or other means of protection, go for PREP. Love is blind and HIV is not written on anyone’s face and do your best in everything.” As for Sbu, she lives by her mantra that says, “Joy comes in the morning.” For her and everyone, it is all about hope and a better tomorrow.

About the Youth and Adolescent Centers

The adolescent and youth friendly program started in January 2017 by EGPAF in collaboration with Lesotho’s Ministry of Health with the support of PEPFAR. Eight adolescent centers were established at Berea Hospital, Motebang Hospital, Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, Scott Hospital, Maluti Adventist Hospital, Ntsekhe Hospital, Mafeteng Hospital, and at the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA). These centers offer among others HIV and STI risk-reduction counseling; HIV testing, care, and treatment; disclosure and adherence support; TB screening and treatment; peer-led psychosocial support; antenatal care for pregnant teenagers; SRH services, including STI and cervical cancer screening and treatment; family planning; post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and PrEP as well as post-rape care and counseling. These services are offered throughout the week, on weekends.

EGPAF uses the Peer Support Group (PSG) model to empower Adolescents and Youths Living With HIV (AYLWHIV) with life skills and motivate them to adhere to treatment, monitor their viral load and manage those with acute chronic diseases, support them with disclosure and enhance support from parents, teacher and partners.

* Names Changed

 

Last updated: November 19, 2019

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