This story is told by a 15-year-old male Kudvumisa Teen Club member. URC’s Strengthening Local Capacity to Deliver Sustainable Quality-Assured Universal Coverage of Clinical HIV/TB Services in Lubombo Region Project provided technical assistance and ongoing mentoring to facilities to establish and sustain 24 treatment clubs to decentralize teen treatment to all anti-retroviral therapy-initiating facilities in the Lubombo Region.
The teen clubs provide clinical services and medication refills to adolescents – minimizing facility visits and enhancing adherence and client monitoring. This exceptional young man, one of the most active participants in his teen club, narrates his story beginning when he found out he was HIV-positive.
“My name is Skhumbuzo* (not real name) and I am 15 years old. I live with my father. My mother stays in South Africa where she is working. Learning about my status was quite an experience [his voice catches with emotion]. I clearly remember one time when my parents were fighting with my grandmother for letting me take HIV treatment. By that time, I wasn’t living with my parents but with my grandmother. The clinic and my grandmother had to involve the police in order for me to be able to continue with my treatment as my mother was insisting that I should not be given this treatment. I do not know what her arguments were, but I guess engaging the police played a major role because that was when she agreed that I continue taking the treatment. Since then, I have been taking the treatment.”
Teen Club facilitators are enthusiastic and well prepared to ensure the young people feel part of the group. After daily outdoor time, the teens gather to learn and measure knowledge gained. In group sessions, members discuss the day’s lesson and present on what they have learned with others. While these activities are taking place, a nurse reviews each young person’s chronic care files and provides medication refills for each young person. Blood is drawn for those due for viral load tests.
To ensure the clubs adhere to the national curriculum for teen clubs approved by the Eswatini Ministry of Health, the project used supportive supervision techniques to assist the Lubombo Regional Health Management Team track the progress of facilities in providing teen club services.
Skhumbuzo comments: “Joining a teen club has helped me a lot in terms of health education and I enjoy being here. It’s a fun, friendly, and welcoming place for us where we share our experiences without being judged or embarrassed.”