Being an adolescent is not easy
Going through puberty and becoming a young adult is hard enough for everyone, but there are numerous things that we battle with when HIV is added to the list! For ages I was taking medication without knowing what it is for, until I was old enough to understand that it’s treatment for HIV and that I need it to stay healthy.
Being involved in relationships is really hard with the burden of disclosing our status. I think this is especially hard for girls, mostly because of the stigma and discrimination.
My body is changing… I have pimples on my face… I think that boy likes me… Maybe that girl kept looking at me because she thinks I am hot… I am HIV-positive. Many times we fail to attend school on the set dates because we have to go and queue for our medication. The clinics are not ‘adolescent-friendly’. They don’t open out of school hours or show concern that we should be at school.
I also have to deal with going to the clinic and being attended by a nurse who will have an attitude thinking I got HIV through sex, because that’s what they believe. Then I have to meet a nurse who is overwhelmed with work and has to still smile at me when giving me the service!
Learning from other HIV initiatives
As an excited young person representing adolescents, I am very confident that the coming years will contribute to the development of many global initiatives that focus on changing the lives of adolescents
Recently, the READY+ project (resilient, empowered adolescents and young people) was launched; a four year project that four countries have been given the privilege to take part in: Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Mozambique.
It will work with youth-led organisations to create projects with young people living with HIV that allow us to learn about HIV, sexual health, mental health, relationships and healthy living in a safe space.
READY+ embraces the numerous difficulties that we face as young people living with HIV, and seeks to address these in a fun, evidence-based, structured and standardised manner. What makes this project unique is that it encompasses differentiated HIV care for us adolescents and young people.