confirming the support with a child and her family
In Zambia, estimated 800,000 children are said to have lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS. Most of these children stay with their grandparents, their relatives, or their family’s close friends. Many of these host families are not wealthy, unable to send those HIV/AIDS orphans to school. Among those children, some are going through even harder times, suffering from the disease themselves.
AAR Japan started educational support to Awal, one of the HIV/AIDS orphans, in 2008. The little boy with innocent smiles grew up to become a 17-year-old man in 10th grade. He lost his mother at age six, his father at age seven and now lives with his aunt. His aunt and her family of seven are never rich, living on only 300 kwacha, which is equivalent to approximately 50 US dollars, a month. Awal’s aunt is struggling with health problems these days.
To make matters worse, Awal has recently come down with the AIDS symptoms. He became HIV positive through maternal-fetal transmission; and knowing of his HIV positive status, Awal has been taking antiretroviral drugs since he was little. Antiretroviral drugs suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of HIV disease; however, he quit taking the drugs recently. This caused skin rash on his face.
Awal’s friend who had also been taking antiretroviral drugs passed away; which led him to believe that he had no hope for his future and that he would die young anyway. His host family did not encourage him to continue the treatment, either.
We were very worried that Awal had stopped taking medication. Angela Mutale, a staff member of AAR Japan Zambia Office, attempted to see him in person and talk him into resume his treatment, but she was not welcomed at first. Awal did not want to see Angela, and his aunt was not very supportive on this matter. After many visits and conversations, however, Awal and his aunt accepted Angela’s sincerity. Awal finally visited the clinic with Angela, took blood examination, resumed his treatment, and recovered his hope for his future.
Among the 43 children whom AAR supports today, there are HIV/AIDS orphans who contracted AIDS though maternal-fetal transmission like Awal. There are also HIV/AIDS orphans who are not contracted with AIDS but are forced to live on their own or at an orphanage. Even the HIV/AIDS orphans who have relatives to live with are obliged to work in order to support their host families. The government of Zambia recognize the necessity of establishing a support system for these HIV/AIDS orphans, but it is not realized yet. Without appropriate support from the government, many of HIV/AIDS orphans struggle not only physically but psychologically as well.
Some of them have issues such as young pregnancy and underage drinking. In order to tackle solve these problems, we could not wait for the government of Zambia. We have to keep encouraging each family to create their own support system at home. AAR Japan started a new program in 2013 with the help of psycho-social counselor, so as to help the HIV/AIDS orphans and their families solve their everyday problems.
Awal’s medical condition has been stable since he had resumed the treatment, but we cannot be off-guard yet. AAR Japan, with the help of local volunteer staff, regularly checks up on Awal to make sure that he is taking the treatment and that his condition is stable. It is our sincere hope that Awal will continue his treatment and graduate his school, so that he could enjoy what awaits him in the future.
Note: In view of privacy protection, assumed names are used in the article, to protect the identity of the beneficiaries.