Musanze – Over 150 children living with HIV/Aids, drawn from various homes in Musanze District, were last week hosted to an annual gala, where they gave testimonies of their daily living, challenges and how they have managed to cope.
The children, aged between 8 and 20 years, many of whom are orphans, receive antiretroviral treatment and care from Ruhengeri Hospital.
The get-together party was organised by UNICEF in partnership with the hospital.
The end-of-holiday camp was spiced up by music, dance and drama, which illustrated how children living with HIV should conduct themselves, especially during adolescence, and a message of hope.
According to Dr Grace Muriisa, from UNICEF, the psycho-social needs of the children have not been fully addressed in various healthcare systems, calling for constant care and support for the kids.
“This has to be a multi-sectoral approach, not just to provide drugs, but to look at all of their needs. Many of them are orphans, don’t go to school and are aware of their HIV status; and have a lot of emotional and psychological challenges that are not fully addressed’’ Dr Muriisa said.
“We have to give them hope for tomorrow and help them develop their potential, regardless of their status. ’’
The children were given scholastic materials, gifts, and hosted to a luncheon, also attended by parents and guardians.
“I live like other children at school. I informed our school headteacher about my status because some times, I feel I need medical check-up. I take ARVS everyday, the school administration understands my situation, I don’t feel stigmatised at all,’’ said Mwizerwa Abuba, a Senior Five student at E.T Karuganda, Burera District.
To Niyonkuru Kalisa, 20, a S.5 student at ESIR-Musanze, his HIV status does not affect his studies, neither does he feel sorry for himself because he was born with it and has never been sick.
“Nobody knows my status at school,’’ Niyonkuru said.
Dr John Karach, the director of Ruhengeri Hospital, urged parents and guardians to offer psycho-social support to the children, help them take the ARVs as recommended, and support them to live with HIV without stigmatisation.