Boarding students struggle to take ARVs – Report

Bame Piet

Partners prefer to conceal HIV status to their spouses

A research conducted by BONEPWA and NAHPA to establish the extent of stigmatization of People Living with HIV has established that students in boarding schools find it difficult to adhere to treatment because their peers make fun of them when they take pills.

The study was conducted in 2022 and the report published last December titled; The People living with HIV Stigma Index.

“I experienced it when I was in boarding school as a student who is living with HIV. It was difficult and sometimes I wanted to leave my medication because of how some fellow students were discriminating me. Everytime I had to take my pills, they would start saying negative things about me, that I am living with HIV, which is why it took me a long time to accept myself,” said one of the students who was interviewed by the researchers.

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The student said that she only accepted herself after her parents were called to the school together with the Boarding Master and they counselled her.

Another student said; “It is not easy to take them (pills) at school especially when you are boarding. Mostly when you are taking them you will see other students in small groups talking about you, so I feel much better when I take the pills at home.”

Many of the respondents said the pills are large in size and some said they defaulted because of this reason.

The research found that many women prefer not to have sex once they test positive whilst men wait to fall sick before testing for HIV.

Others said that they conceal their HIV status from their partners because of fear of discrimination from family, friends and even workmates.

Some respondents said that they were struggling to comply with the treatment because they were unemployed and unable to travel to health facilities every week or month to take the treatment.

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“In addition, the respondents felt that the current practice, where they are given limited stocks and must come back every month for medication, facilitates non-adherence because of the costs and effort involved. They rather preferred to be given ARV stocks for a longer period. In-fact, the current treatment regimen that involves pills that must be taken daily, was also seen as problematic as some people are prone to forget or omit to take treatment, and thus fail to adhere to treatment. Respondents suggested that these pills are replaced with ones that are taken in longer intervals, or better still, many suggested the use of injection, which one would take once a month, or once in six months or a year,” says the report.

The report further states that less than one percent of the participants reported having experienced human rights violations or abuses while accessing services and were forced to disclose their HIV status to access service.

“Just about seven in ten (68.8%) respondents reported that they had to disclose their HIV status to obtain a visa or to apply for residency/citizenship, while 31.3% preferred not to answer the question. Disaggregation by sex shows that this proportion was higher among males (83.3) than females (60%). The results also show that just under two fifths of respondents had to disclose their HIV status when applying for a job”.

The report further says that more females were required to disclose their HIV status than males when applying for a job.

More respondents were required to disclose their HIV status to attend an educational institution or get a scholarship, whilst 31% were forced to disclose their HIV status to get healthcare services, and 19 % had to disclose their HIV status to obtain medical insurance.

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