Supporting Adolescents Through Early Disclosure: A Call To Justice

Victoria Mumbula, Youth Advocate and Activist; Lusaka, Zambia

I’ve been inspired to write this after attending a session on Tuesday  19th July. I have been  living with HIV for 22 years now and it took me until 2012 for me to disclose my  status. It happened when I was given an opportunity by the ELCA and LWF to attend the 19th IAC in Washington D.C.

When I arrived, I didn’t know to expect. It was my first time being in an environment where HIV/AIDS  was the key subject.Since that time, I have taken every  opportunity that I am given because I want to be an instrument to friends, family, church and community. I want people to use me and learn from my life experiences as a person living with HIV and a person with hope for a better  tomorrow!

It wasn’t until  Tuesday, 19th  July that I stopped blaming my auntie, whom I call my  mother, because she’s the only women I have  known and is the best. I have always blamed her for allowing me to have so many friends and live a normal childhood like  all  the normal  kids. I have a best friend who does not know about my status. I have known  her since we were in the 3rd grade. I have not told her because when I bring up the topic  of  HIV, she says, “I swear that one day I will test HIV  positive and I will die.” I know understand my mother’s reasons for note telling me.

Early disclosure in children or adolescents living with  HIV  is a process and includes:

KNOWLEDGE
Aim to build up a body of  knowledge  in the child that lead to  the point of  disclosure of HIV.
In Africa not all parents have an open bond with their children. When they tell you to do something, you just have to do it, no  questions asked. When a parent tells a child, “This medicine is your life. If you ever stop taking it, you will die.” What has a child to do but agree? As the  saying  goes parents  know  better.

CONSEQUENCES
Poor adherence;
Emotional  difficult;
Poor school  performance;
HIV transmission  if sexually  active.

DISADVANTAGES
Person experienes stress and loneliness;
There is a limit to the chance of of maintaining a reasonably “normal”  life;
Stigma, which often leads to discrimination and that results to rejection , self -stigma, representation and communication.

No parent would  want to see their children go through all of this, but it is the right thing to do. You just have to know the right time and the right words to use.

A CALL FOR JUSTICE
At the pre-conference I listened to the story of an adolescent  from India. He was orphaned by HIV and living with HIV. He was never accepted in his community and never was accepted to enroll  in school because his was HIV positive. This made me cry and it made me realize how much of an injustice this is. What difference is there between someone who is HIV+ and someone who is not? We are all human beings with feelings. After he was done I went to him and promised him that I would fight this injustice to the  end with all of my might. I will fight the injustice that impacts people who are vulnerable and living with HIV in the world. I will never sit back to watch this happen in my  country  or community. I gave him a hug because I knew he needed one and I thought that I understood him better than anyone.

As people of faith, we need to work together to help fight for equal rights, be it if you are  black or white; high class or low class; gay or a person living with HIV. We are all human and one in the eyes of  GOD. I have hope for a better tomorrow and hope is in my faith.

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