Fernando is a Community Adolescent Treatment Supporter working with adolescents living with HIV. He wrote this blog after attending the RIATT-ESA sponsored Children and Youth Conference at the 2017 Psychosocial Forum.
I am 19 years old and I am an activist.
In my work in developing, counseling and supporting people living with HIV in communities, we find a lot of cases that are difficult to handle. Personally I don’t accept any case as being too difficult to handle.
For us to be able to work in the community we first introduce ourselves to the chiefs in the community and explain who we are and what we do. The chiefs in the community can then help us to identify people who may need our support, such as people living with HIV, or those affected by stigma and discrimination. It is important to always start with an introduction to the chiefs so that they can trust your work.
Meet Upila (not her real name), a teenager who could not read or write. She lived with her grandmother who could not afford to send her to school. They had no income so her neighbours would sometimes help them by giving them food and clothes to wear.
When she was 16 she began a relationship with a boy. All was well and they started having sex. Only after then did he tell her that he was HIV positive. As Upila did not understand really what HIV was, she said it was ok to keep having unprotected sex. The relationship ended after a year.
A few months later Ulipa became pregnant by her new boyfriend. He told her he was married and could not take responsibility for the child. Due to good local clinic support, the child was born HIV- negative. Ulipa’s boyfriend decided to support her by renting a house for her, but every day he would come over drunk and beat her and the child. Although they had a house to live in, they have no food to eat, and they suffered from constant physical abuse. This caused Ulipa to start defaulting on her treatment.
As a peer supporter, I tried to think of ways to support and empower her. I asked her what skills she had. When she said she knew how to bake I suggested that she could start a business. With a bit of encouragement and guidance she was able to start baking and selling cakes and cookies. A business I believe she is still running today.