|Investing in Our Future: Psychological support for children affected by HIV/AIDS. A case study in Zimbabwe and The United Republic of Tanzania (UNAIDS, 2001, 77 p.)|
Im writing this letter to tell you what has happened after you left. The baby is troublesome; our brother acts like our father and doesnt respect our father. You left us alone. We remember you. We no longer go to school. You used to love us, you gave us things, life is no longer the same without you. I have to look after the kids myself. I wont forget you Momma because you left us in a bad situation.
Elizabeth, Masiye Camp, Zimbabw
When considering the basic needs of a child one is inclined to think in terms of food, shelter, clothing, love, and security, a combination of the material and psychological needs. Children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS have similar needs, except the fulfilment of these needs is potentially in jeopardy when a parent or carer becomes ill and eventually dies.
Meeting these needs is important for the growth and ability of a child to succeed through life. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, meeting the psychosocial needs of children is not only a privilege, but also a right of the child.
Organizations in sub-Saharan Africa have begun to address the rights and needs of children affected by HIV/AIDS; however, many of them deal solely with material aid, such as school fees and food supplies. Monetary aid is also required, as stated by a HIV positive mother from Tanga, United Republic of Tanzania, There is nothing as bad as a spouse dying and then not being able to pay school fees. Nevertheless, how a child feels cannot be overlooked.
Although a family members death from AIDS may be a catalyst that propels children into escalating trouble, the psychosocial needs of children are too often perceived as somehow less important than their economic necessities. If children are to develop the resilience to deal with the challenges in their lives, their psychosocial needs must receive proper and prompt attention.
The White Oak Report,
Experiencing the illness and death of a parent is different for everyone. Despite the resilience of children, the illness and death of a parent always affects them, even if they can not express it verbally. It can create a number of lasting problems for the child and alter the childs interaction with family, schoolmates, and peers. In order to help children through their grief, the possible ways in which they may express their grief must be identified.
Since father died, I have had no clothing and food. Neighbours mistreat me. They chase me away at meal times. I go back home telling my mother that they have sent me away so I cant eat.
Nelison, HUMULIZA counselling session in
When a parent has HIV and is ill for a protracted period of time, a number of changes occur in the family that affect the child both emotionally and physically. Out of necessity, children often assume adult roles, such as that of care provider for an ill or dying parent, and this can restrict their access to education. Frequently the disease process is not explained to children and they are left to draw their own conclusions. Group counselling and the empowerment of parents to discuss their status and situation with their children should commence early in order to prepare children psychologically for the eventual passing away of their parents.
Children whose parents have died of AIDS, whether they are infected themselves or not, are often referred to as AIDS orphans. The use of this terminology tends to label and stigmatize. In addition, it excludes children whose parent(s) are infected with HIV but are still alive, a very important and substantial population of children.
This report refers to children as either orphans or children affected by HIV/AIDS. The term orphan is used for children who have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS. A broader category of children affected by HIV/AIDS is used to refer to all children, affected or infected.
This report is intended for people concerned about and working with families affected by HIV/AIDS, such as social welfare officers, medical and nursing practitioners, health care workers, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), churches, clubs and youth groups.
Drawings can be used as a way of identifying problems that children have difficulty expressing verbally
It highlights the experiences of children affected by HIV/AIDS, primarily those under the age of 15, through the use of their stories, poems and drawings. The role that older teenagers are fulfilling as resources for the younger ones is also described.
Through providing examples of successful interventions being undertaken by organizations in Zimbabwe and the United Republic of Tanzania, the report shares experiences of essential psychosocial support to children who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in order to stimulate new awareness of needs and to open new doors for action.
It focuses on what can be done for the child of an infected parent before and after the parent dies, to enable the child to cope better with the situation. It advocates for parents living with HIV/AIDS to discuss their status and situation with their children and to live positively and stay healthy in order to postpone orphanhood.
The report illustrates how networking between organizations enables them to collaborate in addressing a variety of childrens issues that they could not tackle alone. It identifies lessons learnt that can be drawn upon in triggering and strengthening comprehensive programmes to address the psychological and material needs of children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.