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Church urges focus on HIV-infected teens in Africa

 


Nairobi, Kenya (CNS) — As the international community marks World AIDS Day on December 1, some priests, churches and institutional officials say the Catholic Church will focus more on young people living with HIV in Africa. said it should.

This is when first-generation children who have been on antiretrovirals since birth enter their teens or early 20s. Experts in the field say the group faces many challenges, including stigma, lack of medical services and economic opportunities, and misinformation, especially from his social media.

Many young people are afraid to disclose their status because of stigma. It is of critical importance in the fight against the pandemic.

“[The church]has more to do. Unfortunately, this is the category of young people at risk in the church,” said Jesuit Father Ismael, director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network. Matambra told the Catholic News Service. “Often we cannot explain them. The Church takes up stigma and the problems of youth living with HIV as part of its core pastoral ministry.” It’s more obvious that there isn’t.

“If, for example, all parishes in Africa put youth issues at the center of all aspects of their services, including HIV, we would have so many areas to cover,” added Father Matambra, telling the Church that said it has the capacity and structure to make the changes needed to reduce the burden of HIV on the continent.

Teresa Odhiambo, a lay leader in charge of family life in the Archdiocese of Kisumu, said it was easy to see that the church did not prioritize young people living with HIV and AIDS.

“As a church, I think we have failed somewhere in this, because when we talk about family life, our concern is the family and the couple. “If they can think about their age and being HIV-positive, they almost go insane.” However, they need our support and counseling.

In the early 2000s, affordable antiretroviral drugs began arriving in Africa. This drug has saved millions of children born with HIV. As the world celebrates World AIDS Day this year, many teenagers are trying to understand what sets them apart from their peers.

According to scientists, adolescents living with HIV and AIDS are a vulnerable category, struggling to cope with the challenges faced by all people living with the virus, especially physical, emotional, cognitive and social changes. increase.

According to the World Health Organization, young people aged 15 to 24 currently account for one-third of new infections, and there are 25.5 million people living with HIV on the continent.

“Adolescent girls and young women (ages 15–24) are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than age-matched adolescent boys and young men in sub-Saharan Africa. ‘,’ said the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS in a statement on 29 November.

“In areas with high HIV prevalence, women exposed to intimate partner violence are up to 50 per cent more likely to contract HIV,” said Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director.

Odhiambo said that few HIV-positive young people are open about their condition, but that some young people secretly take antiretroviral drugs with full knowledge of their parents and peers. rice field.

“I think if we can encourage young people, we can do a lot of coming out. They are our children. That’s it,” she said, calling for more education and training.

The African Jesuit AIDS Network is active in 16 African countries, serving people suffering from HIV, leprosy and other diseases. In 2002, I developed a program called AHAPPY Generation. The program educates young people across the continent on how to avoid contracting HIV and AIDS.

Young people are promoting HIV and hepatitis testing campaigns through this program. At school, AHAPPY clubs contribute to activities such as reducing stigma.

“We believe in shaping the consciences of young people so that they can think in the right way and make responsible choices,” said Father Matambra.

In western Kenya, the friars of Our Lady of Mercy have been helping children infected and affected by HIV and AIDS since 1982.

Through the Oyungis Integrated Project, the brothers began treating adults with scars that were found to be HIV-related. They later discovered that many children were affected.

“So we also created a department for them. Children are different, so we had to think differently. Some go to school. They will come and be given medicine.We have created a fund to help orphans, children who are left alone and desperate,” said Brother Vincent Odhiambo. “We took them to school so they could continue their education.”

Brother Odhiambo explained that these and other activities were done “to cure those in their hearts so that they would not die too soon and[ ]prevent further infections.” .

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