Cell phone chat group provides support for HIV positive teens in South Africa
Like any teenager, 17-year-old Thabo Mokoena, from South Africa, was dealing with a whole host of problems: school, family, girlfriends. What made it worse was that he had a secret – he was HIV positive.
15% of young women and 5% of young men aged 15–24 are infected with HIV in South Africa, according to UNAIDS. While medical treatments have been improving, little has been done to support sufferers mentally. For teens like Thabo, navigating adolescence with the virus is a minefield. Three of Thabo’s past girlfriends dumped him when he disclosed his status.
Project Khuluma was set up by an international NGO called SHM Foundation to help teens like Thabo by creating a safe environment that doesn’t require expensive travel or time away from home, school or work.
Khuluma uses cell phone group chats supervised by trained facilitators, where HIV positive teens can discuss anything from their HIV medication to sex, relationships and social issues.
Users can remain anonymous, though many reveal their real names and make friends. Facilitators monitor all conversations and identify teenagers who show signs of depression, mental illness or resistance to their antiretroviral treatments.
Thabo discovered Khuluma two years ago, and has been feeling more accepted and supported as a result. “Before joining the programme, I was alone and didn’t have the psychological support I needed to navigate life as an HIV positive teenager…I now look at life differently knowing there’s someone out there going through the same challenges…and they are there to support me,” he says.
Khuluma is currently live with 99 HIV positive adolescents, and the model has been applied in the UK, Mexico and Guatemala with HIV positive parents, with plans to expand to more countries and demographics.
Image courtesy of hdptcar
Last updated: 30th of August, 2016