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Social Worker perspective: Adolescents on Antiretroviral (ARV) therapy - a VideoBlog

Author: Pretty Nkosi, Nokuthula Skhosana, Lungani Ndwandwe and Tulio de Oliveira - 2012-02-10


What factors contribute to young people / adolescents on Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment (HAART) failing treatment? Quite a number of factors really, such as, lack of knowledge about the advantages of taking treatment, or the lack of knowledge about the length of time one is required to be on treatment. In fact, there are a number of factors that come into play, most of which are psychological and socio-economical in nature. Perhaps one underlying factor that seems to surface out of all of this, and that perhaps goes hand in hand with the factors mentioned above, is the notion that, for an adolescent, living life with HIV is a very long and lonely life. Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) social workers from Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies work with adolescents as part of the Hlabisa HIV and Care Treatment Program. In the end of 2011 they have organized many activities, including a four day workshop during the school holidays. targeted at adolescents, aged 12+ on ART, most of whom were failing ART. The aim of the workshop was to provide sufficient information to enhance adherence and to provide a support system.


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'More information was needed about HIV drug resistance, and to let the participants know that ART is a life-long commitment', these words were expressed by Pretty Nkosi and Nokuthula Skhosana, the ART social workers from Africa Centre and the main organizers of the workshop. They continued to say; '...having a sort of group setting with group discussions by teenagers sharing and facing more or less similar challenges, gives them (adolescents) an assurance that they are not alone in their circumstance and that they have support'. The 4 day programme of the workshop was designed to cater to the audience through infotainment sessions.

The sessions ranged from self-reflecting exercises, where teenagers were required to do introspective exercises by looking in the mirror and expressing their feelings through group discussions; to an informative but fun session about ARVs, amasotsha (CD4) and HIV drug resistance by Dr Tulio de Oliviera (Africa Centre/SATuRN). Also included in the programme was an HIV activist, who had lived with HIV for more than 10 years, telling his story about his life with HIV. This reaffirming story confirming the fact that HIV is not a death sentence anymore and that one can live a long and a healthy life.

Returning to the first line of this article, the question still remains, 'how do we keep patients from failing treatment?'; further more how do we keep adolescents from failing treatment as they are treatment naive, impoverished, and in most cases depressed. Sometimes the antidote is not always clinical. It became apparent from the programme that this knowledge dispensing exercise was not a mechanical exercise, where one gives and another receives; more can be learned from these children, who know first hand about their experiences. So creating an environment where one learns from them too would ultimately shape the direction of research and interventions. All of the above make the work of social workers at the ART programme relevant, informative, and very need necessary.

Part of the social activities for adolescents organized by the social workers in this report was funded by their own personel funds. This is not the first time that they have contributed with their time and money to help the community that they work. In addition, donations from indivudals from the Africa Centre and neighbouring community, including Prof. John Imrie (Africa Centre), Dr. Astrid Treffry-Goatley (Africa Centre) and family. In addition, they want to thanks Dr. Kevi Naidu head of the ART program at the Africa Centre, who encourage this kind of activity.

If you would like more information on the work and/or would like to contribute with finantial support to their social activities please contact Mrs. Pretty Nkosi and Mrs. Nokuthula Skhosana at Tel: +27 35 550 75 00, Fax: +27 35 550 76 65 and by email at: pnkosi@africacentre.ac.za and nskhosana@africacentre.ac.za

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