Adolescents Living with HIV have special needs, not only in Zambia but everywhere. This is because this is the stage where there is a lot of development in all aspects of human sphere and this development is accompanied by a lot of misdirected adventures in life which exposes them to a lot risks.
It’s in this stage that peer pressure, unhealthy and other risk behaviours are common.
With support from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia has partnered with Grassroot Soccer Zambia to training adolescents as coaches that would promote adherence to ART by adolescents living with HIV in Eastern province through soccer.
“This training will help to improve retention amongst Adolescents who are on ART and eventually contribute to achieve the last 90% of the UNAIDS 90:90:90 strategy: which is to ensure that 90% of patients who are put on ART have their Viral Load suppressed thereby improving the quality of life for people living with HIV. We don’t want to leave the Adolescents behind,” said Mambwe Mkasanga, CIDRZ Paediatric Implementation Officer for Chipata District.
“We organised this training after observing that a good number of adolescents on ART have high viral load. So we decided to partner with Grassroots Soccer in order for us to have a training package that responds to the needs of this age group by using novel ideas and means,” Mr Mambwe added.
Grassroot Soccer provides provides holistic services through football.
In the first training, 15 adolescents living with HIV, between the ages of 18 – 24 were trained in the SKILLZ Coaching, which are adolescent-tailored sessions/practices.
The training consists of 11 sessions covering topics such as: Understanding HIV, Joining the SKILLZ Cycle, Avoiding Risks, Adherence, Disclosure among others.
The 15 coaches, drawn from Chipata Central Hospital and Kapata Referral Clinic, will in turn be having sessions with the adolescents aged between 10 – 19 at the two facilities and eventually scale up to other facilities in the district, with the same message of adherence to ART.
“At the end of these sessions, another set of Coaches will be identified and trained,” Mr Mambwe says.
Apart from this training, CIDRZ will further train teen mentors and also conduct Adherence and Disclosure Counselling Training as a way of improving retention for Adolescents on ART.