How adolescents living with HIV cope with stigma as they join Form 1 » Capital News

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 30 – Adolescents living with HIV are also expected to join high school next year, an issue that has erupted unsettlement on how they are are going to cope with their status in secondary schools where confidentiality upon disclosure remains a tight spot.

According to a qualitative study conducted on 17 boarding schools in Nairobi, titled “Navigating antiretroviral adherence in boarding secondary schools in Nairobi, Kenya,” spotlighted experiences that students who are HIV positive face after disclosure.

The study which was published in the PLoS Global Public Health, led by Nicholas Kipkirui from Impact Research Development Organization, a Kisumu-based NGO expounded that disclosure remains a huge challenge on HIV positive students due to the criticism they face afterwards.

Adolescents confessed to having at some point revealed their status to ‘trusted’ friends, a step that later rebounded on them.

‘‘When I was in form 1, I told my friend called [A] who later transferred. I trusted her and told her that I was HIV positive and after 1 week, I started hearing rumors about it. I cried a lot and went to the deputy. The deputy talked to her and even gave her some punishment”. (17-year-old female adolescent R4, FGD)

The most trusted parties in the school also served as a betrayal weapon. Adolescents shared their experiences on the aftermath circumstances that they faced after even revealing their status to guidance and counseling teachers.

‘‘For example, with these guidance and counseling teachers, as soon as you leave that room, you become the topic of discussion, said the student,” revealed an 18-year-old female adolescent

“What you disclose to that teacher, she will disclose to other teachers and so in class, there is a way the teacher looks at you. These teachers like backbiting people” added the student.

School policy was also a catalyst that forced students to disclose their HIV status unwillingly.

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These policies include some schools not allowing students to store medication in their boxes at the dormitory or due to searching protocols at the gate during admission.

To escape the criticism, students were forced to adopt some coping methods that would help them take their antiretroviral medicines with peace.

These mechanisms included lying about the purpose of the medicines, waking up early, or excusing themselves when other students were engaging in other activities to take their medicines

“I take mine in the morning only and I lie that it is an allergy medication. I also changed the storage bottle; my mum changed it for me so even if they see the bottle, they will just think it is medication for my chest.” (18-year-old female adolescent R3, FGD1)

However, caregivers and nurses have stressed the importance of disclosure from the student. They have urged that HIV-positive adolescents should build trust with either caregivers or nurses a sride that will help them cope comfortably with their situation.

‘‘For me, I think it important to inform them [nurses] of the status of the child so that she can know how to handle her. I will do it as the child can’t do it by themselves but before that, I will sit down and talk to my daughter first, then all of us together with the nurse can have a sit-down.” The 42-year-old female caregiver stated

‘‘The child should be willing to disclose the status. You might want to take her to the nurse, but she is not willing. She has to be willing.” Said another 36 year-old-female caregiver.

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