SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

WHO releases resource for African adolescents with HIV

In honor of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) published new guidelines that will help adolescents in Africa better understand their HIV infections and their special needs.

“A diagnosis of HIV exacerbates all of the other normal changes a person in this age group undergoes – physical and social development, peer pressure and puberty,” Nicola Willis, director of Zvandiri, a program for HIV-positive adolescents run by Africaid, said.

Zvandiri is an organization based in Zimbabwe that receives support from the SECURE THE FUTURE initiative of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. The purpose is to address HIV infections based within sub-Saharan Africa.

“There has been a strong need for more data about youth living with HIV, for guidelines that focus on their treatment, and for more support that focuses on their psychological well-being and ability to adhere to treatment,” Nicola said.

Dealing with adolescence and HIV together makes a huge impact on a young person’s life.

“As an adolescent, you need to identify with your peers – it’s critical, yet you have a diagnosis that separates you from them,” Nicola said. “And you’re also looking to the future, becoming more aware of and thinking about relationships and families of your own. However, as we are seeing AIDS-related deaths decreasing, adolescents are the one group in which it is increasing. Generally, there has been a lack of attention given to them and to the services they need. [Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters] help address this.”

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