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.
From the 18th to 21st July 2011 I was able to attend the CHIVA (Children's HIV Association) workshops on Youth Friendly Services in both Durban and Pietermaritzburg on behalf of WhizzKids United. All days were well attended which meant that I was able to meet various different people who work in a similar profession to myself.
In Pietermaritzburg, Dr Neil McKerrow (Chief specialist and Head of Paediatrics and Child Health in Pitermaritzburg Metropolitan Hospital) took charge, whilst in Durban Dr Kimesh Naidoo (Principal Paediatrician at King Edward VII Hospital) welcomed us. The rest of the days were very similar in content and therefore I was able to run a Youth Empowerment Skills session for various different people every day of the workshop. The other topics covered included, 'Talking to adolescents' by Fiona Makia (Senior Clinical Research Nurse), 'Sexual Health for Adolescents' by Dr Eve Jongmann, 'Taking a Sexual History' and 'Family-based Action Plans'.
During my presentation I was able to fully engage the audience in the WhizzKids United Programme. I ensured that everyone knew about the history of Africaid as well as the WhizzKids United Health Academy and the services we offer. I also explained how WhizzKids were able to incentivise attendance to the Health Academy through football with our Mixed Gender League, as well as our other growing list of recreational activities.
The workshop was incredibly interesting for me as I had a very active audience that was keen to learning more about WhizzKids United and the topics I was covering. They were all asking questions and wanted to know how we started and how we managed youth as they are generally seen as the difficult members of the community. With the help of my colleagues we managed to solve their queries and gave them chances to give feedback, ask questions when they didn't understand and give clarifications.
Hospitals and clinics that were hearing about Youth Friendly Facilities for the first time gave their Action Plans and promised to go back to their own facilities to initiate Youth Friendly Services. They will then give the report to both their Managers and WhizzKids United in order that we can work in partnership with as many as possible to ensure the adolescents we service are able to gain the best service possible.