HIV positive teenagers in the Northern Cape have started defaulting on their treatment because of the difficulties they encounter as they regularly have to miss school in order to fetch their medication.
The situation has sparked calls for more community nurses in the province in order to lengthen clinic operating hours to offer young people the opportunity to get their treatment after school.
“We cannot run away from the fact that children living with HIV will grow to be adults tomorrow, and that is why we need to coach and mentor them as well as educate them about positive prevention,” said Nametsegang Gaetsosiwe, a sector leader from People Living with HIV.
“We have noticed that as they grow up they start defaulting on their treatment,” Gaetsosiwe said.
A 16-year-old girl explained that she was struggling to continue with her treatment, as it involved her missing school on days she had to go and collect the medication.
“My teacher says I am always asking for permission to be absent , and I told her to go and ask my mother,” the girl said.
“This makes it hard for me to continue with taking treatment because I don’t like explaining myself that much.”
Defaulting has implications
Dikeledi Senatle of Denosa (Democratic Nursing Association of South Africa) in the Northern Cape said a multisectoral, holistic approach was needed to address the problem.
“As Denosa we are advocating for more posts to be made available for nurses so that our facilities can stay open till late. This will grant teenagers enough time to go and collect their treatment after school, and not during school hours. This will help us to keep a learner in class and at the same time help them to adhere to their treatment and ARV’s,” she said.
“Defaulting on HIV treatment has implications,” said family practitioner Doctor Chika Ifebuzor.
“Taking medication for life is not an easy task, especially if you are a child. But breaking treatment also has its own adverse reactions,” he said.
Chika said when a patient stops treatment, the virus multiplies in the system and organs are affected. This could also lead to treatment resistance in the future.
Nthabiseng Andreas from the Department of Social Development said was important for parents raising children with HIV to register them at adherence clubs so that could learn to understand the importance of taking life time medication and also receive the psychosocial support they need. – Health-e News.