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Life-changing support for children living with HIV

The world has done an incredible job to halt and reverse the AIDS epidemic. Since 2000, new HIV infections among children have declined by 58% worldwide. That means fewer babies than ever are born with HIV and fewer children are dying from AIDS-related deaths.

Yet we still need to ensure adequate support for the 2.6 million children living with HIV globally. The number of children accessing treatment is appallingly low. Only 1 in 3 children living with HIV has access to the treatment they need – and adolescent deaths have tripled over the past 15 years.

In Myanmar, an estimated 11,000 children are living with HIV. Access to healthcare services is limited, particularly in rural areas.

Yamone is one teenager who was diagnosed during childhood. She and her mother are both HIV-positive, with her father passing away from the disease 11 years ago.

Growing up in a poor area, Yamone often suffered from fevers and nausea due to her illness. She also faced discrimination in her community, even within her own family. Her poor health, coupled with the stigma she experienced, prevented her from going to school and living a normal life with her friends.

To support young people like Yamone, ChildFund Myanmar has been working with Spectrum – a local organisation operating in the Mandalay region – providing basic healthcare to children and families affected by HIV and AIDS, and connecting them with peer health groups and support networks. This project is supported by the Australian Government.

Yamone and her mother now receive home-based healthcare, while Yamone has also undertaken life-skills training and benefited from resources to support her education, including a bicycle and a school uniform.

By providing Yamone with a bicycle, she is now able to attend school and access antiretroviral medication more easily.

“I am very happy that I have received a bicycle and school uniform. Due to the bicycle, I am now able to go to school more easily. I am also able to go to quickly pick up the antiretroviral medicine that I need for my health, all on my own,” Yamone explains.

Yamone’s confidence has continued to soar with support from her peer health networks. Now she speaks openly about her HIV status in order to raise awareness among young people in her community.

Education and awareness not only helps to reduce stigma, but is crucial to helping children and youth recognise and understand the symptoms and implications of HIV and AIDS. This can encourage young people to seek medical assistance early on and prevent new HIV infections.

Additionally, for children who have been diagnosed as HIV-positive, this will help ensure they do not slip out of care and continue to receive life-saving support, reducing the number of adolescent deaths in years to come.

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