Trying to Help Tony

Soccer _river Valley

Today, I'm trying to finish hiring a team to help Tony get back to playing soccer.

Tony is 12, and soccer (football) is his favorite thing in the world.  He has been infected with HIV his entire life, and he has had to take medicines for HIV over the last 4 years. The soccer sometimes causes problems with taking his medicines:

"I was so bad with my meds.  I just didn't remember.  It's hard to remember when you are playing football like I am.  I love football.  I would miss meds because of not remembering.  I wasn't trying to skip.  Sometimes my older sisters would try to remind me, but the way they tell me is not good.  I don't want to do what they say."

Because he missed too many of his medicines, the HIV started to weaken his body, and he got sick enough with a pneumonia that he had to be admitted to the hospital a few months ago.

We decided that it was time to tell Tony that he had HIV; we hoped that he might take his medicines better - and stay stronger - if he knew that he had HIV.  This was a slow process for Tony. At first, he did not want to believe that he had HIV.

"When I got back from the hospital, I just wanted to say, "That never happened. I don't have the disease."  I was feeling better and thought it was some mistake. I think I was in some big shock. I wasn't listening. I started to get sick again. I wasn't playing football much and the kids were saying I was too weak for it.  They started talking about me. I didn't like the meds but I started hating being sick. I wanted to forget I had HIV, but some of the kids were guessing and calling me names. They said I couldn't play on their football team anymore. They make it hard for me to forget about this disease."

As part of my research study figuring out how to disclose HIV status to children, today I'll complete the hiring of a team that will offer counseling for families and for children like Tony. We spend all of next week beginning their specialized training. We'll have a curriculum and special materials to guide families through this process of talking with children about HIV and helping children accept their diagnosis. We'll have support groups of adolescents that will offer ongoing support and discussion.

Tony has benefited from counseling and from one of these groups, and we want to make the groups available for more kids like Tony:

"She was saying there were other kids coming to the clinic like me.  There are times when they talk together at the clinic.  I go and listen.  It helps me to remember that I am not the only one and we learn how to accept this disease.  It is still a bit hard, but I don't skip meds.  I don't want to get sick again."

Most of all, I hope we will make it possible for kids like Tony to get back to doing what they love best - playing, being with friends, going to school, and growing into confident adults who can take care of themselves.

Posted at 07:02


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