STRONG YOUNG WOMEN SUPPORTING VULNERABLE HIV+ CHILDREN
"people in the community are still very much in the dark about hiv......
I want to help educate people on HIv and help individuals....especially young women like me"
"Back in 2009, when I was 10 or 11, I was attending a local community school for orphans when some people came to the school to talk about HIV. I didn't know anything about HIV other than people died from it. I was tested for HIV and then I didn't hear anything else about it, I just started going to a clinic for regular check ups and medicine. I was always sick back then with a lot of illness, ringworm and had patches of my scalp where my hair wouldn't grow because of sores, so going to a clinic for regular check ups and medicine didn't seem strange to me.
I was initially put on an immunity booster (Septrin) but I had really bad side effects so I was started on ART. I didn't know what the medicine was so occaisionally I would miss doses or forget to take it. I didn't really understand why it was so important to take my medicine on time. Then one day at the clinic I was taken to see a counsellor with my Aunt and they told me I was HIV+. I cried a lot. I thought that meant I would die. Everyone I had known with HIV, including my mum, had died.
They talked to me about medicine and told me if I took my medicine I could be very healthy. I remember when I first found out and I used to come to the clinic and see people sicker than me I thought I don't want to be like that so I have always taken my medicine regularly.
I was enrolled in a support group for children to help me understand HIV and some of the stigma and discrimination people face and the myths around HIV. Then a couple of years ago I was also put through a support group for teenagers, Tisamala. I met a lot of people who are now my good friends, we have formed a support group and I consider them my family.
I was keen to participate in the group and always answered with confidence so I think I stood out to the counsellors. Then last year they asked me if I would be interested in training to become a teen mentor at TTF and help others who were still coming to terms with their status. Knowing the emotions I faced I was very keen to help others. I have told a couple of good friends that I am HIV+ and am always correcting my other friends when they say things about HIV which I know arent true. But being around people who are going through the same things as me really helps me stay healthy.
This year I have been supporting TTF through acting as a facilitator in the teen support groups and also as a peer mentor in the buddy programme. I have built a really strong relationship with the children I work with throught he buddy programme. The children can be free with us so we can build up support in the home and I work closely with the counsellors at TTF when I think I need more support.
"ttf have empowered me with knowledge and helped me to know what my strenghts and weaknesses are"
"People in the community are still very much in the dark about HIV and don't have the knowledge on tranmission you would hope. Schools also need to bring HIV more into the curriculum.
I want to help educate people about HIV and also support those people living with HIV in the community, especially young women like myself. It is not easy for young women who aren't married to access contraception - there is a judgement that if you aren't married then you shouldn't need condoms. But there is a lot of pressure on girls to have sex, because of their friends, or because they want to have phones and clothes like their friends have and there are older men who will provide that. This puts them at risk of exposure to HIV.
Eventually in the long term I would like to set up my own orphanage helping children who don't have families to support then, to learn skills and a trade so they can do well in life. Especially girls, girls aren't also provided the same education and dont have the same job opportunities as men - I want to be able to show girls that they can have the same chances as boys by making the right decisions.
I just finished my final exams and get the results early 2017. I studied really hard so I am hoping I do well. I would like to go onto study social work - specifically helping individuals living with HIV. TTF have empowered me with knowledge and helped me to know what my strenghts and weaknesses are but now I want to study more about methods of helping people."