The Changing Face of HIV/AIDS
By Pedro Jacob
As the HIV and AIDS epidemic has crossed generations, the face of the disease has got younger. The most common causes of HIV in children are mother to child transmission and sexual abuse, each with its own complications but with the same end result – an orphaned child infected with HIV.
With 2.6 million children infected with HIV, and the vast majority of them within areas where AIDS is the main contributor to high child mortality rates, it’s easy to think of this problem as belonging exclusively to poorer areas of the world. And for the most part, it is. Unintentionally, physical distance transforms into emotional distance and it becomes easy to dismiss this problem as “theirs, not ours”. Our lives go on, and we carry on losing sleep over Brexit, the economy and whatever else is on the news that day, week, month, year.
However, for HIV infected children, the catastrophe is real and ever present. Orphanhood, disease, poverty, misery, abuse and depression take a severe, near-fatal toll on their physical and mental well being, and although science has given us a path to pursue in understanding the medical treatments to apply in order to manage the physical disease, the mental aspect of this tragedy poses different challenges which require an alternative approach.
Play therapy also gives children a chance to express emotions related to their fear of death, vulnerability, changes in physical health, and can be crucial in building self-esteem and developing problem-solving skills, giving their young minds a chance to expand, free from the shackles of their suffering.Children with HIV/AIDS need to be taught how to play both in the abstract but also with other children so they may have a chance of imagining a life beyond the trauma they’ve experienced.
By combining these with information on their condition, children are given the chance to develop healthy coping mechanisms, so their self-esteem can be increased along with their sense of control of their lives, whilst diminishing their sense of hopelessness and depression. These children are also given a way to deal with loneliness as well as a deeper understanding of the disease, in order to overcome their distressing experiences and achieve personal development that gives them a chance to re-integrate back into society.
In this series of articles, we will look at how organisations can help children living with HIV/AIDS overcome their traumatic experiences with alternative therapy methods like play therapy, yoga, mindfulness and sports and consider whether these methods can be used to tackle the issue on a global scale.
Interested in working with a charity tackling HIV/AIDS in India or South Africa? Speak to the VI team.
Guest Blog by Pedro Jacob. He’s an avid volunteer and writer. Catch him here.