ZIMBABWE – Suicide attempts cases are high in teenagers living with HIV, a sign that we have not done enough as a country to support this group, an HIV activist said.
Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV director, Muchanyara Mukamuri said the number of teenagers who have attempted to commit suicide because of their status was very alarming.
“We are really having serious challenges with this group and stigma has also not made it easier.
“Because of the success of the anti-retroviral therapy, we have a group of young people who were born HIV positive and they have reached the dating age.
“They have so many challenges that they have to deal with in silence and this is the main cause of the attempted suicide,” she said.
“Concerns emerged around how to avoid infection at a time when they were undergoing secondary sexual development, had growing feelings for love and were even engaging in sexual activity, but had limited access to preventive methods due to denial by the adult world.
“Fears were expressed regarding how to tell one’s HIV status, even just after sex. HIV and AIDS were visualised in terms of suffering, loneliness, quarantine and death,” added Mucha.
Mucha said the country lacked supportive friendly services for these young people who were also not getting friendly services at public health institutes.
“Because of lack of friendly services, we are losing them. These young people get a frown when they try and access services at clinics. The nurse doesn’t have to say much to turn this teenage away, it just the look on her/ his face that says it all.
“It is for such reasons that they shun health services and even stop taking medication. I blame the nurse for some of the challenges young people are facing,” she argued.
She added that this group was really forgotten as it was adults who were making decisions for them.
“We make decisions for them, we sit down and discuss issues that concern them yet we hardly engage them.
“We speak for them and make decisions yet they are also clamouring for a voice,” said Mucha.
According to recent reports from the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s AIDS and TB unit, young people living with HIV were dying more than any other age group.
Reasons range from treatment defaulting as well as being rebellious as they fail to understand how they were born with HIV.