ENGAGE AND SUPPORT.
It was one thing to become an adolescent mother and another to be HIV positive; nothing could have prepared me for what laid ahead. We decided to move in together with my then boyfriend, forced by the circumstances around us. Having just cleared high school, this is pretty normal from my community - to get married and have a baby - it was no shocker in my case, and sadly it’s still a norm till now. I know one girl out of five who finishes high school and right away gets pregnant, or does not make it through high school.
Our communities go ahead and brand us names, we rarely have people to fall back on or run to for advice. We know it is prudent to go for our antenatal clinic, but here the treatment is not any better. You go through discriminatory questions like, why did you decide to get pregnant and what sort of life you will give your baby if not just the virus? You are asked why such a young girl decided to engage in sex and get ‘dirty’? As if all the children who were born positive the last two decades and below disappeared into thin air or got cured! This is how we lose our girls; they opt for unsafe abortions or giving birth at the nearby clinic where they don’t have to disclose their status or get tested. So what happens to the baby? What happens to our adolescent HIV positive mother?
This is why a support group has become a safe haven for this adolescent mother, though they are now a thing of the past in the priorities for funding. Does this promote zero new HIV infections? Does it promote ending adolescent AIDS? Does it promote eMTCT? Does it see the realization of Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5?
Let’s support what works if we are to achieve the 90.90.90 targets in the HIV response. Support groups work. Community-based organizations can facilitate this smoothly when supported. Engage more adolescent girls and young women leaders at the decision-making tables to tailor what works for us so that it’s sustainable. Meaningfully engage and support us, this is my message to you, in whichever capacity you are in the HIV response.