NEVER TOO EARLY TO TALK ABOUT HIV WITH CHILDREN
By: Ayanda Dube
“Just like telling another adult that you are HIV positive, talking to your child about HIV takes thought, timing and planning,” said Nonhlanhla Duma, a HIV counsellor at King
Duma added that though it can be extremely difficult to disclose HIV information to children, it’s better to tell your children as early as you can, before they start asking questions.
Before the nevirapine treatment that prevents a mother to child transmission (MTCT) of HIV, children conceived by positive couples were born HIV positive. Some parents find it difficult
to tell their children because of different reasons.
An HIV/Aids counselor at Durban University of Technology said that some parents choose not to tell their children, because in some instances they are treated unfairly at home or they
get bullied at school.
“Once the child can differentiate between the rights and wrongs, then you can teach them about how HIV is infected. Make the child see that it’s not the end of the world and that they
can live a successful life with the virus,” said Mathebula.
Mathebula said that not telling your child at an early stage until they hear from outsiders creates hatred between the parent and a child. She said that it has happened before in many
cases, and that it creates hatred in the mother and daughter relationship.
Nompilo Bhengu, a mother of an infected 10-year-old girl, said that she told her when she reached puberty stage. Bhengu said that her daughter was getting interested in her body
“She’s positive, she’s taking ARVs and she’s a very jolly child. She knows that she has HIV and we teach her how to take care of herself and we’re all happy,” said Bhengu.
Thandekile Gwala whose child is positive but kept it a secret said that she only told him that he had TB. She said his son heard from a counsellor at the school clinic, when they were
being vaccinated that the treatment he’s taking is ARVs for people with HIV.
“My son hates me for hiding the truth to him, I was only trying to protect him not knowing that I’m actually creating hatred between us. He blames me for everything, he once said I
embarrassed him in front of people he lives with,” said Gwala.
Gwala added that the counsellor who told her child that he is HIV positive was called for disciplinary hearings after Gwala lodged a complaint against her.
Mathebula advises positive parents to go for counseling so that they will be able to sit down with their children and tell them that they’re HIV positive. She adds that it’s easier to engage
with your child and supports them if you have confidence.
Duma added that families who have successfully disclosed their child’s status in schools and day cares, are supported by the child’s healthcare providers. They provide any information
that is required. They teach about fear of discrimination, isolation, anxiety and increase
HIV/AIDS awareness and sense of community for the school.