Create support structures for HIV+ learners, Education ministry told

A patient holds antiretroviral (ARV) pills before taking his medication./FILE
A patient holds antiretroviral (ARV) pills before taking his medication./FILE

The Ministry of Education has been challenged to create various support structures in schools in favour of students living with HIV.

Edith Ogalo, a pediatrician at AMPATH, rooted for proper coordination between the ministries of Education and Health.

She said this should be with a view to ensuring students in boarding schools who are on Anti-Retroviral Therapy have no challenges.

The Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) official spoke on Wednesday during the closing of HIV clinicians conference in Nairobi.

"Clinicians give the drugs to these children but don't make a follow up forgetting that they spend most of their time at school and not at home," Ogalo said.

She said some of them end up stopping medication completely.

"Some find the packaging to have been done in large noisy bottles and visibility of drug names make them uncomfortable."

Ogalo added that owing to the packaging problem, some learners end up removing the labels or emptying the drugs in discreet containers that are not hygienic.

"Those in day school end up getting rained on or the medicine even get contaminated from sweating," she noted.

According to the official, the school system should have support structures like those given to students with other ailments.

"For instance, those with asthma in most cases are excluded from cleaning to prevent them from exposure from dust."

The experts further challenged the ministry to fight stigma and come up with a friendly way of discussing HIV-related topics in school.

"There are poor discussions in schools related to HIV. Its discussion is associated with immorality or death and this makes them stop medication, lose hope, walk away or fight back."

"Privacy while taking medicine should also be addressed.

Some end up swallowing their drugs past the required time, skipping, swallowing without water or even swallowing while in toilets," Ogalo added.