In February 2007, I started working for WhizzKids United as a Life Skills Trainer. It was a big change in my life and an eye opener of how the AIDS epidemic is threatening in South Africa and the whole world especially in young persons who get infected. I felt like I could help change, like I owed Edendale's youth a behaviour change initiation.
I've become an older sister to them, someone they can talk to since they are afraid to talk to their parents about sex and stuff. So I opened my arms to make them feel free to come and discuss every thing with me. I've changed most of their behaviours in how to take care of themselves by showing that they can be better people by working hard and standing up for themselves in order to achieve their goals. They learnt to work hard to help themselves earn some money rather than getting something in exchange for sex.
In 2009, WhizzKids granted me a chance of taking a counselling course at ATTIC for ten days which helped me a lot in how to deal with cases our children face in their daily lives. I was doing one on one counselling in schools and referred them back to Edendale Hospital if needed.
In June 2010, the WhizzKids Health Academy opened at Edendale Hospital, where I worked as Orphan and Vulnerable Children Coordinator. It was a big challenge but I worked with so much enthusiasm. I was dealing with lots of critical cases like rape, physical abuse or those who suffer from hunger. I was also doing HIV counselling where I dealt with HIV positive teenagers.
I'm so grateful for the opportunity I was given by Marcus, the CEO, and all WhizzKids stake holders. They made me who I am now. I am proud to say that now I'm working for Edendale Hospital as an HIV Counsellor due to their effort in grooming the young girl I was and the shy girl who wasn't talking at all.
In our blog we will introduce the wide range of services and activities that are being offered at our Health Academy. Every week one of the WKU team members gives you an insight into why the Health Academy is so popular and successful in Edendale.
I am Busisiwe Madondo sister-in charge of the unit specialising with couple counselling and rendering clinical services in the unit. There are many clients who come for couple counselling at our youth academy centre. The clients that come to the youth academy are from 10-35 and we also attend to clients who are above that age if he/she is involved with teenagers (you have probably heard of sugar daddies and sugar mommies).
We do couple counselling with all clients that access our services in spite of age without being judgemental or discrimination i.e. lesbians, gays young and old. During the process of counselling I find it interesting to talk to young people who came to the counselling room with the fear of being attended by a health care worker who is going to display negative attitude towards them. After accepting them as they are, they feel free to narrate their stories.
It is easy to talk to the couple of the same age. Language is the same and the level of understanding is more or less the same. To me to be able to talk to youngsters, I have to come to their level (act and talk their language). It is easy because I’m young at heart.
It is important to encourage the clients to turn a new page in case they encounter any problem e.g. when diagnosed with an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection).We explain to them how important protection is. They must both be responsible for their actions. When they have an infection, they both receive counselling and treatment to avoid reinfection. They are told that if their partner doesn’t show the signs of infection, does not mean he/she is not infected.The couples are also encouraged to do HIV & AIDS Counselling and Testing (HCT). We always do pre- and post-counselling. They sign consent forms which is the proof of the agreement between me and the couple to perform HCT. They have the right to receive their results as individuals, but often they agree to receive the news at the same time. In any case we provide very important Health Education before issuing the results. When the results of the couple turn out to be negative they are requested to come back after three months to recheck as we call this a window period (this is period when the antibodies are not showing in the blood stream but the person is infected with HIV). I encourage the couple to use protection during this period. I encourage them to practise healthy lifestyle: be faithful to one partner, abstain and use of condoms, eat healthy, exercise and drink a lot of water is also emphasised.When the couple are both positive, I encourage them to live positively with their status. I also take blood for CD4 count and send it to the laboratory to check whether they are allegible to commence antiretroviral treatment. And I make it very clear how crucial it is for them to change to a healthy lifestyle.
Couple's counselling often raises some big challenges. For example when the clients tend to blame one another, where one blames the partner for being the one who infected the other one. This part needs the good personal skills and conflict management where I need to explain how this happens. I am doing the good job here because I always manage to explain the whole process until they understand.
Couple's counselling is one of the key services that we offer at the Health Academy and I am glad that I am given the opportunity to help so many young people with it.