Lydiah Kiptum, a peer supporter at Kenyatta National Hospital in Kenya,
talks about celebrating love no matter what your HIV status is
Q: February is the month of love. How can we encourage adolescents and young people living with HIV to practice safe sex?
A: As peer supporters, we can remind and teach them to have conversations and discussions around sex. We can also encourage the proper use of male and female condoms and other prevention tools.
Q: Adolescents and young people, including those living with HIV, should feel free to love whoever they want to love, regardless of their HIV status. How can we educate those who are living with HIV on the importance of disclosure to their partner, ensuring that they are safe too?
A: They need to understand that they have a responsibility to protect those that they love. Not only is it important that their loved ones are not infected with HIV, but it’s also important that they are not re-infected with the virus themselves.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) HIV Risk Reduction Tool, re-infection or superinfection “may cause some people to get sicker faster because they become infected with a new strain of the virus that is resistant to the medicines (antiretroviral therapy or ART) they’re taking to treat their original HIV infection”.
Q: What are the challenges when it comes to ensuring that young clients feel they can be honest with their health providers about sexual practices?
A: There is:
Lack of trust in the health providers.
Lack of adequate time or opportunities to discuss the topic.
Fear of being labelled as someone who has loose morals.
Q: Adolescents and young people, including those living with HIV, deserve to feel loved and accepted in their communities, neighbourhoods and schools. How is your health facility combatting stigma associated with HIV?
A: Our health facility works to:
Maintain confidentiality around patient information.
Run campaigns in the media on reducing stigma.
Offer counselling to reduce self-stigma.
Encourage the importance of disclosure, allowing the client to receive support and assistance from someone close to them.
Q: Lastly, as a peer supporter, how do you try to ensure that the health facility feels like a loving and accepting place where adolescents and young people, including those living with HIV, can confide in you and feel supported to return for care as often as necessary?
A: Firstly, our health facility staff does a lot of listening and caring, as per our motto: “We Listen, We Care”. We also have youth-friendly clinic days where separate age groups attend the clinics on different days, separately from adults. We also provide our youth groups with appropriate and relevant games in the waiting area, which entertain them while they wait to be attended to.
Do you have anything to add to Lydiah’s story? Comment your thoughts below.
This interview was compiled by Jacquelyne Alesi, PATA’s communication correspondent in Uganda. Jacquelyne will be assisting in the compilation of stories from the voices of the PATA network. As a global youth advocate, she has represented young people on the National Forum of People Living with HIV Networks in Uganda, sits on the board of the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) and she is an Ambassador to The Coalition of Children affected by AIDS.