By Talatu Maiwada
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an NGO, has called on Government to incorporate mental health services and social interventions into support groups of adolescents living with HIV and AIDS in the country.
Mr Steve Aborisade, Advocacy and Marketing Manager, AHF, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Thursday in Abuja.
Aborisade said the interventions would help to moderate the various influences on their emotions, support their resilience and aid adjustment capabilities.
He said the interventions include, incorporating mental health services with anti-retroviral therapy (ART), stress management skills alongside life skills into adolescent support groups.
Other are, a supportive policies that would allow adolescents in schools easy access to meet appointments at the clinics.
He also advocated for school feeding program to guarantee that indigent adolescents living with HIV and AIDS can feed well enough to take their medicines.
While commending Federal Government’s efforts at getting adequate ARVs, he however advised that adolescents living with the virus required more than drugs.
“The enormity of the HIV situation in Nigeria today would be the expansive population of adolescents who have known nothing but HIV all their lives.
“For the majority of these adolescents, priority consideration is firstly, learning and adapting to live with a daily medication dosing that is for life.
“The challenge here has resulted in countless adolescents on treatment opting out to the detriment of their health, for various reasons; including difficulties dealing with initial side effects of the drugs.
“Also, the unfriendly nature of some of our facilities and its perception as an environment of stigma and the internal conflicts with accepting an HIV positive status make things even more difficult.
“Another challenge is the poverty level which makes it difficult for some of the adolescents to eat or find their ways to the health facilities,’’ Aborisade said.
He said that coping and dealing with the realities of being HIV positive comes with a lot of responsibilities to oneself and to others.
He said AHF had commenced a Safe Space Program to support young women, girls and boys by empowering them with leadership skills and education to negotiate safe sex and to imbibe safer sexual practices.
He said that the foundation had also provided menstrual hygiene best practices awareness as well as the opportunity for life skills and access to HIV counseling and testing services.
He urged government at all levels to renew its effort to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, and to keep the promise on AIDS by committing resources to halt its stride.