Acquired HIV from my mother: how do I live in Trinidad and Tobago?
1University of the Southern Caribbean, Sociology and Social Work, St. Joseph, Trinidad and Tobago, 2Ministry of Education, Student Support Services Division, Pembroke Street, Trinidad and Tobago, 3Community Action Resource, Woodbroke, Trinidad and Tobago
Issues: The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the Caribbean is second only to Sub-Saharan Africa and higher than the global rate. HIV/AIDS presents a real threat to children as they account for one in six global AIDS-related deaths and one in seven new global HIV infections. Furthermore, the number of new cases of children in the region is growing. Despite the impact of HIV/AIDS on Caribbean children, no research has been done on the psychosocial issues that affect those born with HIV. This paper is based on original research carried out in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Description: A grounded theory ecological case study method was used to gather data from a purposively selected sample of 8 families with children between the ages of 5-13 years of age who contracted HIV from their mothers during pregnancy and breastfeeding. In-depth interviews were conducted with mothers, children and an extended family member or friend of the mother. Interviews were recorded and data were analysed thematically.
Lessons learned: Children felt sad and did not know how to deal with that emotion. There was generally no discussion of HIV in the household and HIV was equated to death and dying. Yet, the children still conveyed hope for the future. They had the urge to help their mothers with chores around the home and they worry about the well-being of their mothers. Disclosure to anyone was not permitted. Children thought that they were no different from their peers who were HIV negative even with stigma and discrimination.
Next steps: The study will have far reaching implications for social work practice in the Caribbean and will inform social workers, health workers and others directly involved with families living with HIV/AIDS and also, importantly provide a forum for the voices of young children to be heard.
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