Psychosocial and Reproductive Health Program for Adolescents prenatally infected with HIV.
In Kenya, most HIV programs are geared either towards pediatrics or adults. With treatment, care and support most children born with HIV are surviving to adolescents now. However there are limited services designed for this cohort yet they face complex issues. The prenatally HIV infected adolescents have largely grown up in a conspiracy of silence and secrecy where nobody tells them they are HIV positive. When they eventually find out their status, the trauma is further compounded by the complexities of adolescence. Drug adherence, disclosure stigma and sexuality are some of the major issues that they struggle with. This cohort is likely to engage in unprotected sex because they have no capacity to disclose or to negotiate for safe sex. They are also likely to stop taking their ARV medication at some point due to side effects, stigma or just lack of commitment. They are also likely to experience depression, early pregnancy and opportunistic infections.
The program targets HIV positive adolescents who were prenatally infected with HIV Age bracket between 13-18 years and they are also on care and treatment in our target areas. Family Tree Initiative partners with four hospitals where there are many adolescents who were prenatally infected and are now transiting from pediatric to adolescence care.
The Family Tree is a Community Based Organization working in central and eastern Kenya as well as some thematic areas in Nairobi. It was registered in 2007 and has been involved in children programs. The vision of this particular program is to offer a smooth transaction from pediatric care to adult care through an adolescent – friendly format. This will include
- Reproductive health education and provision of appropriate methods to be carried out by District Reproductive Health coordinators under the Ministry of Health
- Intense age-appropriate counseling and formation of coordinated support groups by trained counselors approved by Kenya Counseling Association.
- Developing a training manual for health care providers and other care givers to address the specific and unique issues of adolescents living with HIV from childhood.
- Creating a safe and friendly environment for the prenatally infected adolescents to share and relate with each other both at the facility level and at the organizations offices in Thika Town.
- Improve adherence and retention in care in order to improve quality of life through messages that incorporate positive living and positive prevention. Various ways can be used like dance, drama, games and outreach programs.
Adolescents who were born with HIV are prone to unique experience. We hope that the lessons learnt from this project can be used to roll out comprehensive adolescent care through the country an indeed the region. This may seem like a small cohort but in the real sense it’s a time bomb waiting to explode unless interventions are immediately put in place. Too much emphasis was given to pediatric care without realization that they will soon grow up to adolescents. However it’s not too late, there is a window of hope if we act now.