Catherine Murombedzi Health Correspondent
Parents and guardians with children on anti retro viral therapy have a lot to consider before initiation on life-long medication. Medication for diabetes mellitus is easily explained to a child as compared to ARVs. Usually a child with diabetes mellitus will understand the condition better as compared to a child who is HIV positive and has to take ARVs for life.
Medication for diabetes mellitus is also for life but usually the child does not ask the difficult question ‘Why me’.
A child born HIV positive asks the above question and parents or guardians find the question hard to answer.
Usually a parent or guardian needs to get help from a trained counsellor.
Parents and guardians are protective of their children’s status which I fully understand.
However, children living with guardians are in a special need category since most of the guardians are not HIV positive themselves leaving both guardian and child in need of support from those in the know.
Talking from experience of the above, I have had enquiries from guardians seeking help to help child get out of the moody sessions they usually get in.
One uncle who is a guardian to his late sister’s child has for the past four years brought his niece for afternoons during weekends and holidays.
This has helped the girl very much and is now an A’ Level student with a suppressed viral load no longer moody.
The minor changed from being moody after learning that there were more children like her.
I referred the girl to an organisation dealing specifically with young people.
The organisation Africaid Zvandiri Positive has young people living with HIV as peer counsellors.
The name Zvandiri means ‘acceptance’ in Shona literary translated As I am.
The organisation is expanding to other provinces since the official head office is in Harare.
In areas they are not yet found they refer you to helping organisations found in your areas.
A child needs a buddy who helps them on reminding that it is time to take medication.
Parents must not lie to children that they are taking medication for a heart or spinal cord condition.
When they finally find out what the medication is for it is even hard to explain why they lied in the first step.
In Glen View in Harare we recently lost a secondary school boy after finding out on his own what his medication was for.
He stopped talking the ARVs yet collected from his mother.
There are children who lost parents when they were minors and had no one to look after them.
Usually the eldest child although still a minor too took over raising up siblings.
These children become adults due to hard circumstances.
They are referred to as mature minors.
This is an emancipated minor and can also be a patient.
The child possess the knowledge and takes care of siblings. Please note this is growing up under difficult circumstances. Children on streets are also in this category.
However, a mature minor understands implications of getting siblings tested for HIV, giving consent for a sibling to start medication.
Here the mature minor’s age does not matter but understanding of issues at hand.
A minor heading a household when under the age of 16, responsible for their own welfare, independent to take decisions for siblings and self, demonstrates understanding of HIV then that minor can consent on own behalf and on behalf of siblings.
Mature minors need support because they have been thrown into the deep end before their time has come.
Taken advantage of
Children in difficult circumstances have often been taken advantage of by those who pretend to offer help.
Girls have been impregnated and boys abused sexually too.
What the children need is education, livelihoods support and a community that lessens their burdens.
Mrs Shingi Matogo one of the founders of Clear Vision said it is unfortunate when minors are abused in the name of help.
“It is very sad when someone who pretended to help orphans ends up being the abuser.
“Such people must be reported to the police and let the law take course,” said Matogo.
Being HIV positive for minors is a challenge but being a mature minor at the same time needs a pillar to lean on not an abuser.