For many adolescents in South Africa, the experience of living with HIV is an isolating one. They might face stigma for their status, or be keeping it a secret out of fear or shame. They might have seen family or friends suffer with the virus or have lost people close to them to AIDS. These adolescents are so much more than their status. Their hopes and fears, their ambitions and anxieties, stretch far beyond the experience of living with HIV. They often lack a support network with whom they can share their worries, doubts and questions - about HIV or other parts of their life.
Supporting adolescents living with HIV needs to go beyond medication. This is where Khuluma comes in. In 2013, The SHM Foundation started running peer-to-peer support groups for HIV-positive young people using mobile phones: Khuluma was born. We started working with clinics in Pretoria and Cape Town to recruit young people for our program. Despite their commitment to provide great care to these young people, such clinics lack resources to provide emotional support to their patients.
Through Khuluma, adolescents gain that emotional support, by connecting with others going through similar experiences. Through the support groups participants can use text messages to discuss a range of issues, peer-to-peer at any time. These groups have had a huge impact on the lives of participants, from a decrease in feelings of stigma and discrimination to a higher likelihood to sticking with medical treatment.
As Khuluma has grown, we have found that some participants have wanted to stay on and become part of our program. So we launched the Khuluma Mentor Program, which provides our adolescents with training on HIV knowledge, facilitation leading peer-to-peer support, and offers them help in relation to their education and careers. So far we have trained 27 Mentors to work alongside the Khuluma team, helping us reach more young people each year. We feel an incredible sense of pride when we listen to how Khuluma has impacted the lives of these young people.
Khuluma has helped me to accept my status
I no longer feel isolated. I know there is more to life than HIV
Khuluma has given me hope and friends
There are so many things I want to do in my life
We want to keep supporting adolescents living with HIV, and empowering them to take ownership over this incredible program. For that we need to raise £3,000 this year. Any contribution you can make, no matter the size, will make a huge difference.