July 22, 2014 - openDemocracy.
by Martha Tholanah
One of the themes at this week's International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, is the testing and treatment of children. In Zimbabwe as elsewhere there are high numbers of children growing up with HIV who have not been diagnosed and in whom the disease is therefore advancing without check. A recently published study in Zimbabwe by the London School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine sought to investigate why this is and how to overcome it. It concludes, "The HIV prevalence among children tested was high, highlighting the need for provider-initiated HIV testing and counselling (PITC). For PITC to be successfully implemented, clear legislation about consent and guardianship needs to be developed and structural issues addressed. Healthcare workers (HCWs) require training on counselling children and guardians, particularly male guardians, who are less likely to engage with health care services. Increased awareness of the risk of HIV infection in asymptomatic older children is needed."
This study recommends training healthcare workers to counsel others. However, the study omitted to consider the key issue of attitudes held by health workers, lawmakers, and other professionals towards HIV and those with HIV. Unless healthworkers are offered this critical first step of training in self-awareness, to assess their own attitudes towards HIV, and therefore people with HIV, any amount of training to counsel others will be money wasted. High levels of stigma present a huge barrier across the whole spectrum of professional service providers in the field of HIV and AIDS. When will policy makers, politicians and academics start to think upstream, in order to change their own and their employees' attitudes towards HIV before seeking to change the attitudes of others? Continue reading...