What is the best way to support these children? They have to deal with things at home changing if their caregiver becomes unemployed or cannot get a job. Often they have the primary responsibility of looking after sick parents. They can’t always understand what it means to live with HIV and why they have to do things differently to their friends.
Jogbeth, our HBC Coordinator, explains, “Our support group has been geared towards our adult clients who are living with HIV. But we are coming to see that it’s also necessary to do something for the children. Whether they are HIV-positive themselves, or they know the HIV status of their parents or caregivers, they also need a platform to express themselves and talk about the issues and challenges they face. Of course they do this one-on-one when our HBC volunteers visit them at home, but there are also benefits to bringing them together so that they can learn from and encourage each other.”
“The first step is to make the children comfortable and for the HBC volunteers to build a relationship with them so they are open and feel ‘safe’ talking about things that concern them. Often the parents or caregivers have to realize how their children are affected by what happens to them, and that their children’s needs must also be addressed. This could be helping them understand what it means for them or their parent/caregiver to be HIV positive, educating them on how to protect themselves and others, or just encouraging them to talk about anything that is bothering them.”
“In one of our HBC households a grandmother is raising six of her grandchildren and the eldest two are HIV-positive. In another, young HIV-positive parents are waiting for their daughter to be tested at 18 months to confirm her HIV status. In yet another, an HIV-positive girl is being raised by her aunt and grandmother after her mother died from AIDS.”