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A mother’s thoughts: when your child is living with HIV
Shahista, the mother of 18-year-old Zahid (name changed), who as a child suffered an accident as a result of which he has been living with HIV for 11 years now. Having found out about her son’s status, Shahista decided not to delay the disclosure, so that he could more easily accept and get accustomed to it. She brought him to the peer support group where young people as himself communicate and help others cope with their new status. It led to positive results, Zahid makes progress at school and does his best to help youngsters who have recently found out their status, telling them about his experience.
What do you think makes other people to discriminate? Have you personally observed such cases?
I think what brings about discrimination is the way the information is being spread out. Mostly when talking about the HIV-positive, people picture promiscuity and drug-addiction and are ready to hang a label on anyone just because this kind of associations live among public. I think there should be more information available and right messages should be shared . Then, I think, people will not judge anyone just for disclosing their status. There are some cases when HIV has been transmitted to a person, or even a child, by accident, like in our case. And yet that person has to live with all the burden that has fallen on him or her, feeling depressed just because of the pressure of having to constantly hide his status. It’s unfair. Along with support and understanding expressed by strangers, we had face a great deal of negativism from relations. I won’t go into details, but I want to say that mostly people, who are not ready to understand, are just lacking the correct or full information. So maybe a different, less judgmental approach should be used during the explanatory work.
How do you think parents should educate their child to prevent any kind of discriminatory behaviour?
I don’t have the formula of course, I am just a parent. What I strongly believe is that when children grow up in a diverse environment and are well-educated, they tend to be less judgmental. What is critical, in my opinion, is that the parents keep themselves aware of the up-to-date information and demonstrate a good example of supporting and accepting everyone as they are. Children of such parents most likely won’t become a discriminatory adult.
What message would you send to parents of children living with HIV?
I am a member of a support group and it helps me a lot. Other parents often compliment my positive attitude and our trusting relationship. What I would advise other parents is not to get into depression – it helps no one. Always know that you are not the only one – it means a lot in our case. When you find others who have experienced or are currently undergoing similar situation, you will be able to talk about it with someone, share the burden and it will make life easier. But above all, be close to your child, don’t blame him or her and don’t hid the status from him or her. The earlier they find out is the better for their understanding and getting used to it. No need to avoid this subject, you should become confidants for each other, so that your child always feels he or she has someone to share anything with. It is our children, they need our help to learn to walk, speak, read. They learn to live with their status too. After all I have gone through, today I am thankful that my son can live a full life with appropriate treatment, he can study, he can make friends, he can plan his future.