Community Outreach Team tackling challenges faced by HIV-positive children

Anova's Cape Winelands project is having an impact on the youth through their Community Outreach Team which addresses the needs of HIV-positive children. The work done by this team (made up of a counsellor/data mentor, a counsellor manager, a social worker and an antiretroviral (ARV) doctor) is based around the Infectious Diseases Clinic (IDC) at TC Newman Hospital Paarl.

The team initiated a programme that attempts to offer a holistic experience in the treatment of HIV in paediatric patients by establishing an experimental multi-pronged and holistic approach with programmes for young children, adolescents and selected caregivers.

Experience at the clinic has shown that younger children with poor family support may experience low rates of disclosure and poor adherence to their medication. This has been confirmed by a study in adherence in which the team participated in 2013/14. This Stellenbosch University study aimed to identify ways to improve paediatric adherence through a daily tool. The target group was 2-12-years-old. Initial findings highlighted the relationship of family support and disclosure to adherence. Experience has also shown that the disclosure and adherence experience at younger ages can have severe consequences at the adolescent stage.

Along with the ARV doctor, Anova has instituted the use of a South2South disclosure booklet, involving caregivers and children in a process of disclosure. This programme was piloted in the IDC and will be rolled out to other sub-districts in 2015. The book gives structure to the caregivers and counsellors, as well as being an interactive and subtle way for children to learn their status.

A Whatsapp site has been set up to keep in contact and respond to questions. The Choma phone app by HIVSA has also been promoted to put adolescents in touch through its dynamic youth electronic magazine that deals with health issues.

The outreach team also does home visits where caregivers, especially grandmothers, are struggling to manage their adolescents. Selected caregivers as well as older adolescents participated in two separate Healing through Objects and Memory workshops, as a therapy tool.

Gap year programme

A gap year programme has also been established which aims to introduce developmental milestones, which will assist the youth with school performance. Currently there is a 23-year-old young man born with HIV, who has great insight into the complexities of HIV, and who is very good at communicating with adolescents and engaging them in constructive activities. There is also a young mother who offers supervised stimulating play to children waiting at the clinic. This will be facilitated by a new initiative, Go Bags, through which age appropriate toys and games will stimulate children at different levels to enhance their school performance.

The gap year programme offers opportunities to the participating members, exposing them to new skills, work and study prospects, while they share their time and expertise with children and adolescents in the clinic. PATA funding has enabled them to be paid a small stipend. The first gap year student was able to get an internship in a government department, an opportunity that came to her through being on the programme.

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