Our visiting UK doctors reflect on the recent weekend camp for HIV positive children ages 12 to 18
On the 25th of October the health and social work teams worked together to organise a teenagers’ camp for HIV positive young people.
The activities started with a group discussion- the young people indicated the topics that they wanted to discuss and then these were worked through as a group. The first topic they wanted to talk about was peer pressure. All the teens seemed to be worried about alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancy. The temptation to follow the crowd must be incredibly hard to resist when you so want to be like everyone else and to fit in.
The young people were also invited to write down an event from their lives where they had felt stigmatised due to their HIV status. These moments were then put into a box and read out anonymously and discussed as a group. The children tried to give each other ways of working through their problems. A lot of the teenagers disclosed that people wouldn't eat with them, wouldn’t play with them or would gossip about them behind their backs.
As doctors from the UK, volunteering for the Trust, it was incredible to see the resilience of these young people. One of the main worries shared by the group was whether "HIV is a death sentence". It must be very difficult to keep on the right track, go to school and avoid social pressures if you are so unsure about your own future. So we worked hard to explain that with medication their condition can be controlled and they can look forward to healthy lives.
Peer educators tried to set an example of how to stay healthy and showed them that they can and should allow themselves to make plans for the future. We hope that by bringing these young people together they have been given a bit of fresh thinking on their lives and a chance to support each other.
The posters they made towards the end of the day recorded their thoughts and what they had learnt from the activities during the workshop. Their creativity and the messages they wanted to get across to people in their communities were really uplifting.
They also participated in some fun activities and games and everyone went home with a full stomach and hopefully, a lighter heart.
Dr Amelia Hawkes
Dr Cavitha Vivek