Saturday, July 16, 2016

"What would make it easier for you to reveal your HIV status at boarding school?"

The session ended with the question, “What would make it easier for you reveal your HIV status at boarding school?”  Participants’ answers focused largely on education, with many revealing that they learned very little about HIV and AIDS from their school curriculum.  When asked how many of them learned about HIV in school, only 6 of 10 responded that they had.  The ones who had HIV education in school indicated that it was limited and that there was only a short paragraph explaining HIV/AIDS in the chapter under Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).  They also reported that many of their teachers did not have adequate knowledge on the subject.  They emphasized that the school curriculum did a poor job of explaining the difference between HIV and AIDS (“being sick from HIV”).  They said that their classmates, friends and family often did not understand that people could live successful, healthy lives even if they were HIV positive.  The participants’ recommendations for this, aside from including more information about HIV in the school curriculum, was to have school representatives lecture briefly about HIV/AIDS at morning parade or in the dorm rooms to supplement their learning.

In addition, many participants agreed that telling at least one trustworthy school representative, whether it was a teacher, headmaster or matron, about their HIV status was important to remaining adherent.  School representatives could help provide safe spaces and times for students to take their HIV medication. In addition, when students needed to ask for time off from school to pick up their medications from clinic (since they are currently only able to get a one month’s supply), these representatives could allow them permission.  Other participants recommended telling friends at school so that they could remind and help them to take their medication.

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