Roderick Sitapai of Friends Foundation Inc revealed that statistics provided by the National AIDS Council early this month showed that by the end of 2017, there were about 3,000 new cases of HIV infections.
25 percent of this are children and teens under the age of 20.
But these numbers are not the challenge for FFI, who assist children living with HIV and/or are exposed to HIV.
The bigger challenge is trying to get the child to accept why they are taking the medication, especially as they grow older.
“We have cases where children have been defaulting off medication because they think they are healthy and don’t understand why they have to continue,” he says.
Most of these children are either orphaned or abandoned by parent(s), and lack the support mechanism.
Sitapai gave an example of a 13-year-old female who is giving up hope and has shown signs of suicidal attempts, saying it’s not her fault for being infected.
To address this challenge, FFI’s immediate action is starting a group therapy for these children.
“The purpose is to get them together and help them to understand the importance of medication and to see that they’re not alone; that others are facing what they’re going through,” he said.
The problem with this age group is that children can get rebellious if things do not go their way.
“The last thing we want is for a child who is HIV positive to be rebellious,” said Sitapai.
He said the idea that a person with HIV will pass the virus generations down is actually a myth.
“We know that a child can live up to 22, and if on right medication, can live longer and can have children who are HIV negative, which is what we’re pushing for here at FFI,” he added.
The message FFI emphasises is “You can leave a legacy”.
Human T cell (blue) under attack by HIV (yellow) – Picture: National Institutes of Health