We continue our blog series this week, "Words From A WhizzKid" with a young lady who regularly attends the Health Academy. I asked her to detail a typical school day, discuss her experiences at the Health Academy and share information about the stigma of HIV among her family and friends. What transpired from our conversation was a portrait of a brave girl taking ownership of her body, mind and spirit.
This is what she shared:
I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is take a bath. Then I eat, brush my teeth, and get ready for school. I enter my school gate at 7:15AM because the gate closes at 7:30AM. School lasts for 7 hours and we go through 6 periods a day. At 2:00PM, I go home and do my homework. After I get my homework done, I go to the Health Academy.
There are lots of things happening at the Health Academy everyday. This year I played in the Mixed Gender League and did Life Skills. It is also a place where we can go and get HIV testing and even do counselling. My friends are scared to talk to counsellors that are the same age as our parents. That’s why we love the Health Academy because the counsellors are young and we can talk freely to them. Some of my friends were scared to get HIV tested but now with the help of WhizzKids United they go every other 3 months.
I have had HIV testing and I am glad I know my status (HIV negative). It is important to know because it helps you know how to take care of yourself, especially if you are HIV positive. You can live long if you do what’s right for your health and body.
Everyone I live with at home knows their status too. One relative I live with is HIV positive, so we make sure we take care of her and ourselves because we know that HIV and AIDS kills. I know a lot about HIV and AIDS from the Health Academy and I am glad I can help care for my relative.
I care about my body and health. I make sure I eat healthy and live healthy everyday. I make sure I don’t eat oily foods or eat a lot of sugar. Whizzkids United helps me exercise my body every time I go and now I even play soccer at home with my brothers.
This is something that was given to me by a WKU Health Academy client- - a friend of mine, a fighter, and a victor, who has not let his ailment get the better of him.
This is what he wrote:
I am living with an illness. I have no one by my side. I know that health care workers talk about disclosure because if you don’t disclose to someone you cause yourself harm. Yes! It hurts, but who am I to disclose to? I have no mother and I have no father. My parents passed away when I was little. Others have people to talk to but who am I to talk to?
I am unable to focus on my studies, when other kids see me and laugh. I start thinking that they are aware of my status. Sometimes if I’m having fun with my friends, I start to think that I am different from them, but the fact is that I’m the same as the rest of them it’s just that I’m HIV positive.
I began taking antiretroviral (ARV) medicine in 2005. When I first took them I thought that I was going to die but I am still alive. With the help of the WhizzKids United Health Academy staff's understanding, support, and love I have gained a new perspective of myself and my life.
My dream is to become a police officer and thanks to WKU I know that I can still reach my dream.
At the WhizzKids United Health Academy we aim to prevent HIV and AIDS. Through our medical services and recreational activities we target three aspects of prevention: spiritual prevention, physical prevention, and psychological prevention. Today, I want to focus on the psychological aspect and tell you about the WKU Health Academy Chess Club.
The Chess Club started mid September with eight Health Academy youth interested in learning how to play chess. Unfortunately, we only have one small travel size chessboard right now so only a few adolescents can play at a time. We started the Chess Club as an activity aimed at stimulating the adolescents’ minds and developing problem-solving skills to use in their everyday lives when they encounter challenges.
The Chess Club meets formally twice a week. We start with a brief lesson regarding the rules of the game and then the youth pair-up and compete against each other. The best way to learn how to play and get better is simply to play. There are two exceptional students in Chess Club right now, twin brothers named Bheki and Bhekisisa (Chess intelligence must run in the family!). In only one month they have learnt and excelled at the game of chess and each time they play they learn more about chess strategy.
Even WKU staff members are getting into the fold as Theo Mitchell recently faced the brothers in a computerized version of the game. For an hour all eyes were on the computer screen as they captivated the audience and battled to a standstill. Chess Club has become a popular activity when the youth aren’t playing soccer. Many of the adolescents at the Health Academy want to learn and play since they have never played before. We hope we will acquire a couple larger chessboards in the future so the Chess Club can accommodate all the eager youth.
As the Chess Club advisor, I am hoping to make this club successful. My goal is to have a Chess Team represent WKUHA in competition against local schools’ Chess Clubs.
First off, let me assure you that being an HCT Counsellor is not as easy as it sounds, neither is it as boring as some people may think.
In order to be a good counsellor, there are some qualities that you need to have. You need to be a good listener, not be judgemental and have empathy. But most of all you need to be aware of yourself. This means that you must be able to understand your emotions and anticipate your reaction to every situation you may encounter when dealing with different clients.
Today I will explain in detail what goes on during a pre- and post-HIV test Counselling session at the WhizzKids United Health Academy.
Before you take a client, your consultation room needs to be prepared. Depending on the age of the client, certain documents must be prepared. These are consent forms, result forms, and if the client is a minor (under 19) we fill in a Sexual Health Risk Assessment Form and an Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Form.
Once we have assembled our documents, the client walks in with their HGT forms so that we as Counsellors know that they have had their Vital Signs checked. Meanwhile the reception staff will already have given us their medical files.
I greet the client and introduce myself and explain my role at the WhizzKids United Health Academy and assure the client that everything we discuss during our session will be treated with confidentiality. I then ask the client to fill in the relevant forms. After that is done, we begin with Counselling.
This is where we explore the client's knowledge about HIV transmission, prevention, and management. We explore whether or not they have been at risk of contracting the virus and also look at STI's and their association with HIV. We discuss the possible result that we might get when doing the HIV test, and I explain what each result means. After this stage we do the actual HIV test and after 5 minutes I can give the client the results.
This takes place after the results have been given and depending on the result the session will differ. But mostly, this is the stage where we look at the implication of the results. We talk about the possible lifestyle changes that would best suit the client given the results. We also encourage them to do a TB Screening, live a healthy lifestyle by exercising, practising safe sex, and most importantly, disclosing their status to a person that they trust.
After this is complete, I fill in the relevant documents and give the client their next appointment date.
Of course, this all sounds very simple and even clinical, however when you are in a counselling room explaining to a person who may have been abused or raped that they are HIV positive, this is not a simple or clinical process. Even when a client is HIV negative it is often hard to get them to talk to you and to help them to ensure that they remain negative. However, I love what I do and hope that I can help as many adolescents in Edendale as possible to create an HIV-free generation.
So you see, it is not easy being an HCT Counsellor, but then again, life isn't easy.