The tea on HIV

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NO SILENCE

NO STIGMA JUST FACTS.

Sharing #TheTeaOnHIV is all about sharing the truth around HIV and empowering each other to have more open and honest conversations about it. 89% of adolescents living with HIV live in Africa.

 

This is a problem but we have the power to change this narrative. We can work together to ensure that everyone has access to youth-friendly care and support and stop new HIV infections once and for all. So, let's end the silence, get informed and start the conversation.💪🏿😎

 
 
 

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Let’s get the facts straight.

 

Human immunodeficiency virus

You CANNOT catch HIV through:

0

adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa became infected in 2018, 82% of them girls and young women.

Girls and women across Africa are more vulnerable to contracting HIV due to being at higher risk of sexual violence, pressure to have unprotected sex, child marriage and abusive marriage.

 
 

1) Speak to someone

 

It’s super important to find someone whom you can speak to for support. In some countries across Africa, you must be taken by a parent to access services if you are younger than 18 years.

2) Follow your treatment

 

It is important to respect what the doctor tells you and to always follow your treatment.

3) Demand youth services

 

Young people may not have any adult they can talk with. Arm yourself

with all relevant health-related knowledge and join with other young

people to demand better youth-friendly services for HIV support.

 
 
 
 

The details and tips that you

want to know.

Prevention Tips 

CONDOMS (male and female)

  • When used correctly, condoms are a great way to protect yourself from HIV, sexually transmitted illnesses and pregnancy too!
  • You must only ever wear ONE condom between you and your partner as wearing two or more can cause it to break which puts you at risk.

VOLUNTARY MEDICAL MALE CIRCUMCISION (VMMC)

    

  • VMMC can reduce sexual HIV transmission (female-to-male) by 60%! BUT it is still important to always use a condom during sexual activity.

VMMC facts

    

  • One example as to why VMMC is recommended is that the foreskin is prone to tearing and bleeding during intercourse which makes it easier for HIV to enter the bloodstream.

    

  • You must wait until your VMMC has completely healed before participating in sexual activity as you are at greater risk of contracting HIV whilst healing.

 

Read more about VMMC here.

 

It is important that female genital mutilation

(FGM) is not be compared to VMMC. FGM does not protect against HIV and has no health benefits.

Open discussions about your status

    

  • Speak openly with people you trust, and if you are in a relationship encourage your partner to get tested. This allows both of you to take the right precautions if necessary

Use of antiretrovirals to prevent hiv infection PrEP (before hiv exposure)

    

  • PrEP is a course of drugs to be taken by HIV negative people to protect them from HIV.
  • It stops HIV from replicating in your body and if taken correctly can prevent you from contracting HIV!
  • You must take an HIV test before taking PrEP to make sure that you are HIV negative.

 

Should I use PrEP? It is is a good option if you are in a continuous sexual relationship with a partner that is HIV positive.

PEP

After HIV exposure. Emergency Only!

    

  • Sometimes even when we try to be safe, we can be exposed to HIV.
  • PEP works best when taken within 24 hours of exposure to HIV and cannot be taken more than 72 hours after exposure.
  • It must be taken for four weeks at the same time everyday and you can get it from health clinics and doctors.

 

Availability and cost of drugs depends on where you are.

 

Who needs PEP? people who work with needles or have surgical injuries, are sexually exposed to HIV which is common among young people, or have experienced sexual assault.

Symptoms & Testing

Symptoms and testing (male and female)

  • Most people do not get any symptoms, which is why you must get tested to know your status.
  • Tests are easy, confidential, and nothing to fear, it is the best way to take full control of your health and get the services you may need!

How do you get tested?

Blood or oral tests - option 1

    

  • HIV can be diagnosed through rapid diagnostic tests that provide same-day results. The test is conducted by a qualified and validated health worker at a community centre or clinic.
  • They will either take a blood sample by pricking your finger with a lancet to get a spot of blood or a small sample from your arm, and an oral test by wiping a swab inside your mouth along your gums to get a saliva sample. Young people can also use HIV self-tests to test themselves.
  • To find your nearest test provider search for "HIV testing" and your location or ask a healthcare professional.

It can take THREE MONTHS for HIV to show on a test this is called the ‘window period.’ So keep this in mind when getting your test result.

 

The window period is the time between HIV infection and the detection of HIV antibodies using serological tests. The period is 21 days (3 weeks).

How do you get tested?

Self-testing - option 2

  • Self-testing is a screening test so if your result is positive your diagnosis must be confirmed by a health worker.
  • Self-testing kits are not available everywhere but can be found in health facilities and online.
  • It’s quick and easy! You can take a blood sample via the pricking technique mentioned above OR collect a sample of saliva via the swab technique mentioned above. You can post some self-testing kits to a lab (results can take a few weeks) and others can provide a rapid results (approximately 30 minutes).
Medication and treatment

(ART) Antiretroviral treatment

 

  • ART is a combination of ARVs that work to stop HIV from replicating itself in your body.
  • ART keeps the amount of HIV in your body low (your viral load) allowing your immune system to be strong.
  • If you follow ART correctly you can achieve an UNDETECTABLE status which means HIV levels are so low (low viral load) that it cannot be transmitted and does not affect your health!

Many young people across Africa are on ART and it is important to respect your treatment as prescribed to stay healthy. Not sticking to treatment plan increases the risk of drug resistance.

FACT!

There is no transmission of the HIV virus among People living with HIV (PLHIV) with a suppressed viral load.

Being born with HIV

"I was born with HIV."

Asiimwe, 21, Uganda, Youth Champion.


"I am HIV-positive. I am not sick. I am not sad. I am not dying. I am just a fabulous host to a tiny virus."

Doreen Moraa, 27., Kenya

Many young people across Africa were born with HIV just like Asiimwe. Around two thirds of HIV-positive adolescents have been living with the virus since birth, having acquired it through mother-to-child transmission. Many HIV-positive youths have been on treatment since birth but only truly understand their status when they reach adolescence.

 

Many experience unique challenges as they transition to adulthood. It can feel scary and cause concern over what other people may think - this should not be the case. Stigma prevents many young people from being able to speak about it and gain support. See how you can be an ally and lead in ending the stigma below.

 

Youth-friendly services could provide a life-changing path for young people born with HIV by giving tailored support. We must create communities that do not discriminate but instead support and empower young people to not feel scared to talk and seek support

Women and girls being more at risk
  • Adolescent girls, in our region, are at a higher risk of contracting HIV due to the increased risk of being victims of sexual violence, pressure to have unprotected sex, child marriage, and abusive marriages.

 

  • Gender discrimination, gender-based violence, and taboos about sexuality have an impact on young girls being able to prevent contracting HIV, negotiating safer sex, and accessing HIV or sexual and reproductive health services.

 

  • We must demand for more youth-friendly services to ensure that women and girls get the support, protection, and treatment that they need.

 

  • Youth-friendly services would also be a great platform to start important conversations with young men to educate them on these issues as a method of prevention against gender based violence and abuse.

 

For more information please visit: https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/2019_women-and-hiv_en.pdf

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 3 in 5 new HIV infections among 15-19 year olds were girls. (2018)

Youth-friendly services

Adolescents' health literacy - make sure adolescents are armed with the knowledge about their own health and where and when to get health support.

 

Community support - health facilities that encourage involvement of parents, guardians, religious leaders and more to understand the value and importance of youth-friendly services. Without the support of the community adolescent programmes cannot be successful.

 

Appropriate packaging of services - making sure that information and services such as counselling, testing, and treatment are accessible and appropriate.

 

Providers' competencies - ensuring that healthcare providers can administer the best possible care to adolescents with no judgement, no discrimination and respect.

 

Facility characteristics - a health facility that is welcoming, clean, fully equipt and has convenient opening hours.

 

Equality and non-discrimination - a service for all no matter what a young person’s wealth, marital status, sex, age, education level, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.

 

Data and quality improvement - a facility that collects and analyses data to continuously improve care.

 

Adolescents' participation - adolescents being at the core of services by participating in the planning and monitoring of their own care.

Young people across Africa are the most likely to not have access to the right information or HIV care they need and this is why we need more youth-friendly services.

What are youth-friendly services?

The World Health Organization has developed 8 global standards that we should strive for across Africa for quality healthcare services for adolescents.

 

Read here for more information about youth-friendly services:

 

https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/183935/9789241549332_vol1_eng.pdf

 

https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/2019-global-AIDS-update_en.pdf

What adolescents need is attention, affection, patience and non judgement.[...] If we don’t take care of the needs of adolescents, we will find ourselves with another generation failed. This would be catastrophic.

Patrick, 22, Cameroon

View more youth champions’ stories below.

 

Africa needs adolescent-friendly policies

To access HIV services, many countries legally require parental consent for adolescents, which has become a barrier. In 14 countries in the WHO African Region, the age for accessing HIV testing without parental consent is 18 years old.

 

WHO recommends that governments revisit their age-of-consent policies “in light of adolescents’ rights to make choices about their own health and well-being”.

 

GET #TheTeaOnHIV

Lack of vital information about sexual health is harming adolescents and young people. This places them at higher risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and, at the same time, perpetuates stigma and keeps them from opening up to someone for the emotional support they desperately need at this age.

 

Sexual health education and understanding consent are both crucial for young people to protect themselves and why we must demand more youth friendly services.

How to be an ally! Demand for youth-friendly services

How to be an ally!

Challenge discrimination and stigma - encourage equality and inclusion!

 

  • Many across Africa still lack basic knowledge about HIV, such as how the virus is contracted. Misconceptions drive discrimination so if you witness discriminatory or judgmental behaviour, inform people with HIV facts.
  • Lead by example and be that supportive friend or family member that you would seek in a time of need. Initiating conversations is the start of breaking barriers that prevent young people from getting support. Being open and honest helps to end stigma.

 

Create safe spaces for learning

  • Be an advocate for more open and honest conversations. Educate yourself on HIV and encourage open conversations about it. This will encourage more people to get tested, take the right precautions, and seek the right treatment.

 

Demand youth-friendly services

  • Speak to members in your community about the 8 global standards that make a youth-friendly services. It takes allies like you to engage communities for long-term success.
  • More youth-friendly services would be a huadicating HIV from the continent of Africa.

People say to me, ‘You’re the leader of tomorrow.’ But we’re the leaders of today because if all aspects of young persons are not being touched, believe me, more harm is going to come in the future."

Patrick, 22, Cameroon

View more youth champions’ stories below.

Facts and stats

FACTS

 

How do you contract HIV?

YOU CAN’T become infected by kissing, hugging, shaking hands or sharing personal objects, food or water with others. HIV can ONLY be transmitted through the transfer of pre-cum, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, blood and breastmilk. Another fun fact is that mosquito bites DO NOT transmit HIV!

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

 

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. AIDS is a group of symptoms and illnesses that are caused by HIV Although there is no cure for HIV, treatment exists for people to live long and healthy lives.

STATS

 

Adolescents by the numbers

In 2018, nearly 1.5 million (89%) of the 1.6 million adolescents living with HIV globally live in sub-Saharan Africa. Two thirds (70%) of them acquired the virus through mother-to-child transmission. In addition, 157, 000 adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa became infected in 2018 – 82% of them girls and young women.1

 

While adults in Africa are increasingly dying of other causes, AIDS remains a leading cause of death among adolescents in most countries hardest hit by the epidemic.2 The number of adolescents dying due to AIDS tripled between 2000 and 2015.3

 

Although there has been recent progress in adolescent AIDS-related deaths, the decline is considerably slower than for adults, indicating that health services are failing to provide adolescents with appropriate quality care.

 

1 See www.aidsinfoonline.org/gam/libraries/aspx/Home.aspx (accessed 18 Nov. 2019).

2 See www.scidev.net/sub-saharan-africa/disease/news/adolescent-health-concerns-attention.html (accessed 13 Nov. 2019).

3 See www.unicef.org/media/media_86384.html (accessed 13 Nov. 2019).

 
 
 
 
 

Imagine this...

 

THE YOUNG PERSON

Your name is Mary. You’re 16 and live with your father and older sister. You’ve always been made to take medication every day but have often skipped it or thrown them away...

 

THE ALLY

Imagine that you notice your friend has been acting strange and not feeling very well but says they’re fine when you ask...

 

THE STUDENT

Imagine that you’re a young university student. You’ve met someone who is much older than you and is well known for having had many partners...

 

YOUTH CHAMPIONS LEADING THE WAY

Many young people across Africa discover that they are HIV positive at a young age and although there have been many advancements in treatment for HIV there is still a lot of stigma associated with it and still many areas across Africa that lack needed resources and support.

 

HIV doesn’t need to be something to be afraid of, it’s preventable and with the right treatment you can live a long, normal and healthy life. Our youth champions are excellent examples of what young people are capable of and highlight a serious need for more open conversations and more youth-friendly and youth-led services in our region.

JOY OBOYI

19, Abuja, Nigeria

“People say to me, ‘You’re the leader of tomorrow.’ But we’re the leaders of today because if all aspects of young persons are not being touched, believe me, more harm is going to come in the future.”

 
 

ASIIMWE HAJARAH

21, Kampala, Uganda

“My advice to young people is to be selfish about your life – it’s your life, your responsibility. No one will be swallowing your ARVs for you.”

 
 
 

DOREEN MORAA

27, Nairobi Kenya

“I am HIV-positive. I am not sick. I am not sad. I am not dying. I am just a fabulous host to a tiny virus."

 
 

KIMUTAI KEMBOI

28, Nairobi, Kenya

"Dear ARV, It is exactly three years since we met. The journey has been amazing, smoother than I expected. Being with you has been positive all through. You have suppressed my guest, HIV, and given me strength to manage it.”

 
 
 

VIMBAI JAZI

21, Morondera, Zimbabwe

“My strength is in my story. I was always this bold, it just took a matter of time for me to see that. Zvandiri brought this out of me. I’m confident, I’m strong.”

 
 

PATRICK

FOUDA

22, Yaoundé, Cameroon

“I had no one to talk to about my status, until I found others like me. Now it’s my turn to help others: I co-founded an association for HIV-positive youth.”

 
 
 
 
 
 

BE A CHAMPION!

Ending HIV across Africa is a big task, but not an impossible one. We can start the conversation, support each other, and create change.

 

Educate yourself

 

Challenge your perceptions

& be conscious

 

Spread the

word

HOW YOU CAN BE A CHAMPION...

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Be an ally and share facts that you have learned via #TheTeaOnHIV on social media.

Using our hashtag #TheTeaOnHIV share ideas of what you think could be done to help young people who want to learn more about HIV and what youth-friendly services means to you.

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THE YOUNG PERSON

Imagine your name is Mary. You’re 16 and live with your father and older sister. You’ve always been made to take medication every day but have often skipped it or thrown them away.

Your mother passed away when you were three years old and recently you started wondering why you have to take these pills. You find out that it is for HIV. You now understand that taking this medication allows you to live a happy, healthy and normal life. You hadn’t been feeling well for a while and now know this was due to you not taking your medication correctly.

 

Stories like Mary’s are a reality for young Africans across our region. 70% of adolescents living with HIV in Africa having contracted it from their parents. Many young people don’t have someone they feel they can talk to and many do not know enough about life with HIV. Did you know that with the right treatment you can live a long , happy and healthy life? And that there are many misconceptions about how you can contract HIV? Facts like these are life changing and we need youth friendly services to share these facts and create more peer support around the topic of HIV. The more we know about HIV, the less scary it seems and the more we can work together to support those who have it and prevent it from being transmitted.


 
 
 
 

THE ALLY

Imagine that you notice your friend has been acting strange and not feeling very well but says they’re fine when you ask.

One day they open up and share that they have HIV and haven’t been taking the medication they were given as they’re in shock and denial. You know quite a lot about HIV due to a family member living with the virus and see that this is a great opportunity to have an open and honest conversation about it. You explain why the medication is so important, that HIV is nothing to be ashamed of and give them a big hug to reassure them. Your friend is so grateful for your support and slowly grows their confidence back.

 

Whether you are directly affected by HIV or not this is an incredible opportunity to lead in open and honest conversations about the virus.

Having HIV or wanting to learn more about it is nothing to be scared or embarrassed about. Having more conversations about HIV is important and in some cases can save lives. Learning more about the virus will allow you to empower young people around you and end the stigma. Let’s break the silence on HIV and spread the word.


 
 
 
 

THE STUDENT

Imagine that you’re a young university student. You’ve met someone who is much older than you and is well known for having had many partners. Your older cousin tells you to be careful and that if you have sex to be safe and use a condom. You have never been sexually active before but feel pressured by them. A few days after having sex without a condom you find out that they are HIV positive. You find a reliable source online that explains that you can take Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) within 72 hours of exposure to HIV in order to prevent infection. You tell your cousin and they are very supportive and encourage you to always use condoms in the future, to speak to someone if you feel pressured into something and more importantly that you should never feel embarrassed about discussing HIV.

 

Adolescent girls, in our region, are at a higher risk of contracting HIV due to the increased risk of being victims of sexual violence, pressure to have unprotected sex, child marriage, and abusive marriages. Stories like this happen everyday and it highlights the need for more open and honest conversations about HIV and prevention. By being open around the topic, young people will have more knowledge about the virus, can encourage each other to get tested, share prevention tips and ensure that they get the right treatment if necessary. Everyone should be able to talk safely and honestly about HIV


 
 
 

JOY OBOYI, 19, Abuja, Nigeria

She hopes to enrol in university to study peace and conflict resolution and one day wants to have her own NGO dedicated to young people.

I lost my mom when I was still young – 4 years old. I grew up with my dad. Basically, I was on treatment, but I didn’t know why I was taking the drugs. I didn’t know the importance. It got to a point where I skipped taking my drugs. Sometimes I threw them away. My dad travelled, and I was in charge of myself to take the drugs. I wasn’t really consistent. When I went for my next appointment [they could see] I really missed taking the drug. The care provider was angry. She said, ‘If you don’t take your drugs, you’ll die.’ Everything changed when she said that.

 

My parents couldn’t disclose to me because they thought I was too young. When I discovered this is why I’m taking this drug, that I’m HIV-positive, I was devastated. I had self-stigma.But then I started voluntary work with EVA – Education as a Vaccine. I am also a member of SOWCHAN: Society of Women and Children HIV-Positive Network. EVA works with adolescents and young people for sustaining change among adolescents and young people. When I got there, I felt at home. Working with young people gave me strength. Fifteen of us were trained on advocacy.

 

We were working on three things: One, lowering age of consent for comprehensive access to treatment to 14 years. Right now, a person younger than 18 must go with a parent for health service. Second, we advocate for the removal of user fees for people living with HIV or AIDS. People living with HIV and AIDS must pay out of pocket to access their treatment. It’s supposed to be free for viral load testing, but there are people paying for it. Third, we are advocating for implementation of the anti-stigma law. It’s actually law already, but people don’t really know about it.

 

People say to me, ‘You’re the leader of tomorrow.’ But we’re the leaders of today because if all aspects of young persons are not being touched, believe me, more harm is going to come in the future. Young people are sexually active, and they do this without the knowledge of anybody, without their parents knowing. You see young girls have to drop out of school as a result of pregnancy and some go for unsafe abortion and lose their life, and still you see young people don’t have access to treatment. But yet, these things are happening. So, are we going to keep quiet and behave as if it’s not happening? We’re not too young to decide for ourselves – the person who wears the shoes knows where it pinches the most.”

 
 
 
 
 
 

ASIIMWE HAJARAH, 21, Kampala, Uganda

She was first runner-up for the Western Region in the Y+ beauty pageant for HIV-positive youth, 2018–2019.

When I wake up in the morning, I read one chapter in the Quran on my phone, then say my prayers. I wash my face, brush my teeth, prepare breakfast. After breakfast, I shower, then watch a nice movie or post something on the internet. I was born with HIV. When I was in primary 3, I got to know about my HIV status from a peer educator at our hospital in Kabale.

 

I did not get surprised because I was too young to know what it means to be HIV-positive and how bad it can be. It was difficult for me to share my status to my best friend – I was afraid that I would lose the friendship because at school they used to tell us that HIV kills and it had no cure.

 

That made it more difficult for me, but now that I know more information about HIV, it is easy for me to tell others. I would not say that it can be easy to live a normal life even if I was not born with HIV because even the normal people who are not HIV-positive have other problems they face that makes their life worse than me who is living with HIV. I now have a lot of friends living with HIV.

 

I encourage all young people to test for HIV because when you have HIV and you don’t know your status, that will lead to infecting others, and it will also lead to AIDS and other diseases that weaken your immune system, like TB, hence causing death. All of this can be avoided if young people get to know their status.My advice to young people is to be selfish about your life – it’s your life, your responsibility. No one will be swallowing your ARVs for you – I know what it means for your life to depend on medication. Abstain from sex if you’re still in school. Avoid free things, like gifts that you will later pay for in the form of sex. And if things get out of hand, USE CONDOMS”

 
 
 
 
 
 

DOREEN MORAA, 27, Nairobi, Kenya

Works as a customer care executive and has a YouTube page titled “I am a beautiful story” where she shares her experiences as a young person living positively with HIV.

When I was 13, my parents explained that I was born with HIV, and they promised to support me to continue taking my medicines and seeking prompt treatment for any infections. My parents are also a discordant couple. When it was time to join a boarding secondary school, I had to be discreet about my daily medications to avoid ridicule and stigma. I was very careful about taking my ARVs twice a day because some of my friends had very negative thoughts about HIV. Whenever they asked about my daily medicines, I lied that they were for a heart condition. Later, when I joined college, I became actively involved in HIV awareness campaigns to encourage more young people to go for HIV testing.

 

I have grown up seeing my mother actively participate in HIV public advocacy campaigns among teachers, where she shares her personal experience about positive living. In 2015, I went public about my HIV status by writing an article in one of the top newspapers in Kenya. I received more than 1000 responses, especially from people who were HIV-positive who were undergoing self-stigma, had been humiliated and rejected by friends and family who already knew their HIV status. I realized that we need more uplifting stories.

 

I use Facebook and my YouTube page (I am a beautiful story) to share my personal experience. It is one of the ways to normalize HIV. On my Facebook page (Doreen Moraa Moracha), I have declared:I am HIV-positive. I am not sick. I am not sad. I am not dying. I am just a fabulous host to a tiny virus.

 

I also talk about my experience taking ARVs for the last 15 years. This pill has kept me going for 14 years, keeping me virally suppressed, making me healthier and pretty by the day, and this means I cannot infect my partner. My tiny guest [HIV] is in my body, but it’s not active. I am a proud host to a tiny guest, but the virus does not define me. Share to give HOPE to a life.’ If you are HIV negative, maintain this status. If you are HIV positive, accept, have a positive attitude and take your ARVs religiously.

 

I am an ambassador of HOPE. I openly share my HIV status with prospective partners because I want to start off on trust. However, some people say I am lying because they do not believe that I can be this healthy and also question my openness on my HIV status.”

 
 
 
 
 
 

KIMUTAI KEMBOI, 28, Nairobi, Kenya

A fourth-year computer science student at a university in Nairobi who describes himself as an HIV disclosure ambassador.

I believe that openly discussing my HIV status is an opportunity to eliminate stigma and discrimination. My Facebook page (Kimutai Kemboi) is an open letter to my friends about my lifestyle and a choice to be an ambassador of optimism. Recently on Facebook, I shared about my journey since I began antiretroviral therapy. ‘Dear ARV, It is exactly three years since we met. The journey has been amazing, smoother than I expected. Being with you has been positive all through. There is no day I have complained or contemplated to terminate our relationship. For the past three years, you have been faithful and wonderful. You have suppressed my guest, HIV, and given me strength to manage it. I will forever be grateful.’

 

Here is my short story: I dropped out of school due to lack of fees. I went to the city where I got a job as a domestic worker and later got involved in a sexual encounter with my employer, who promised to pay my tuition fees in return. It only happened once but made all the difference in my life. Working for her did not last for long because she lost her job and led a desperate and depressed life. I had to leave, for there was no hope of getting her support again.

 

I was once again stranded in the big city of Nairobi, in search of casual jobs so that I could save for my tuition fees. The jobs were scattered and paid poorly. During one of my free days, I spotted a mobile voluntary counselling and testing centre in our neighbourhood and was drawn by curiosity to get an HIV test. The test results were crushing. How could I have HIV? I was too young. I took numerous HIV tests at different places. But the results were the same. I was HIV-positive.

 

I went into denial for one year, and I didn’t tell anyone about my HIV status. But East or West, home is best. I returned home and confided in my brother about living with HIV. He was shocked but very supportive and promised to discuss with my other siblings and our mother. The family was very understanding, I was overwhelmed by their love. Today, we check on each other often, and I always thank God for supportive family members. They restored hope in my life. They reassured me of their unconditional love, and today, I no longer carry the shame of living with HIV.

 

The next step was challenging the world to change their perceptions about young people living with HIV. Two years ago, I went public about my HIV status to encourage young people to make informed decisions about life. An HIV status is not the end of the world. Young people should know their status so that they can have a firm foundation of their relationships built on trust. I am currently not dating. My focus is to finish my IT course at the university early next year. I have a few words for young people: If you are HIV-negative, maintain this status. If you test HIV-positive, it is important to start taking ARVs to achieve viral suppression and to learn how to protect your partner from infection.”

 
 
 
 
 
 

VIMBAI JAZI, 21, Marondera, Zimbabwe

She works full-time as a Zvandiri peer counsellor and dreams of opening a foundation within 10 years to help people living with HIV and to offer a place for orphans – a home to support each other as a family, because without support, you cannot go anywhere.

“Sooo, I was born on 6 April 1998 in a family of four, we were two children. My mom died when I was 9 years old and my dad when I was 3 years old and then my brother when I was 7 years old. I’m not sure about my dad, but yes, my brother and my mother died of AIDS-related illnesses. I was put on treatment when I was 11. No one told me – they thought I was very young and wouldn’t understand I was HIV-positive. My foster mom had the information and only told me to take drugs. I found out on my own at 14.

 

It was a surprise, a shock for me. Why didn’t they tell me? I was living alone then, and I was now the one to go to the clinic and collect medication. That’s when I realized my drugs were ARV drugs. I was angry. When my foster mother came back, we had a talk. She said, ‘I was afraid, and I didn’t know how to tell you. I knew all the pain you had been through; I thought I would keep to myself and tell you when you were older.’ I wanted to keep it a secret. I knew what the community would say. I was afraid of negative impact. My best friend all along knew, I never told her as such. Her mom took the same drugs. She openly told the community.

 

When my status was disclosed, I lost every friend around me – the people I thought were my friends then didn’t want to be associated with me. For many teenagers it’s very hard. They just judge and think sex is how you got it. When I was 15, I thought, what’s the point to keep on taking the drugs? So, I stopped. I just gave up on everything on life. I felt the pain of losing my mother, my father and my brother again. I stopped for almost three years. Yeah, I’m an HIV champion! I started my journey with a viral load of 2 million copies [HIV particles] and now I have less than 30 copies, which is something I’m really proud of.

 

For many young people, especially those not included in Zvandiri programme, stigma is still like it was when I was 14. Stigma goes beyond losing friends. Some people who are not with biological parents, they suffer – they have to have separate bedding, separate dishes.

 

My strength is in my story. I was always this bold, it just took a matter of time for me to see that. Zvandiri brought this out of me. I’m confident, I’m strong. Compared to adults, we adolescents and young people tend to keep things to ourselves. We are losing young people at a tender age, and so the Government needs to remember we young people with HIV are out there and we have our needs. The earlier you know your status, the better for you. There is a moment when you need to engage because there is more fun in positive living – there is a family waiting for you out there. So, go and get tested"

 
 
 
 
 
 

PATRICK FOUDA, 22, Yaoundé, Cameroon

He is pursuing a university degree in political science and philosophy and recently became a father.

I was 12 when I found out that I was HIV-positive. It was during a medical visit that my doctor mentioned it – he didn’t know that I wasn’t aware of my status. I didn’t know what it meant, but when I saw that my mother was fighting back tears, I couldn’t ask her. From that day to this, we’ve never discussed my status.

 

I contracted the virus through a blood transfusion when I was 4. Because I was in such poor health, I wasn’t able to go to school. My parents gave me a computer so that I could have a window to the world. It became my lifeline. I learned everything that I could about HIV and AIDS. I had no one to talk to about my status, until I found others like me. Now it’s my turn to help others: I co-founded an association for HIV-positive youth.

 

I fought hard to recover from serious illness as a child, but other people my age were letting themselves be defeated by this virus. I felt that if I was able to surmount my obstacles, I could help others to do the same. The association began as a way to communicate information about HIV and AIDS and as a place where youth could get together. But our primary purpose is to advocate for the needs of adolescents living with HIV. The association has grown, and today it is part of RECAJ+, a national network of adolescents living with HIV that has more than 600 members.

 

As adolescents, we feel as though we have been forgotten. Plenty of attention is given to grown-ups and to children, but we, in the middle, are being forgotten. Information about us is being drowned in statistics. The problem is, there are too many adolescents, not enough staff. Here in Yaoundé, there is a big gap between the needs and the skills available. For the 1200 adolescents living with HIV in Yaoundé, there are only six people to provide psychosocial help.

 

Most service providers don’t have the knowledge or skills to help adolescents. They’re community health workers who have never received additional training on the psychosocial needs of youth. What adolescents need is attention, affection, patience and non-judgement.

 

If we don’t take care of the needs of adolescents, we will find ourselves with another generation failed. This would be catastrophic, especially for those who have fought for so long to end AIDS"