This article was reported by allAfrica_._
allAfrica reported that a recent interactive workshop showed that stigma prevents HIV-infected teens in Zambia from taking antiretroviral medications because the separate dispensing locations reveal to others that that they have HIV. According to Namuchana Mushabati, program officer for Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), youth want HIV drugs to be dispensed at general pharmacy windows to maintain privacy.
HIV infection in Zambian youth implies that they are having unprotected sex outside of marriage, and teens fear stigmatization. "There is perception that HIV can only be contracted by elderly people because it is said that only married people should have sex, so they think that people will start thinking how did they get HIV? That means one was naughty, sleeping around and that is how they got HIV," Mushabati said.
The workshop also revealed that some parents give their children HIV medication without disclosing their infection, which leaves them ignorant regarding how to handle their illness and can cause anger and resentment. Some youth find out they have HIV when their peers recognize the medication. "Most of them feel parents are being unfair by not disclosing to them their status or not explaining to them about the issue of being born HIV-positive," Mushabati said.
SAfAIDS' Community Dialogue Agenda program, which six Zambian towns have implemented, works to improve parent/youth dialogue about reproductive health, including HIV infection, sex, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy. Currently, many Zambian youth get this information from the Internet and their peers.