200 adolescents with HIV received life skills and leadership development training through the Teenergizer methodology

21 November 2022
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ALMATY, November 21, 2022 - The Office of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Kazakhstan, in partnership with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and Peer-to-Peer Plus NGO, organized the Autumn Camp “ASHY KATYSU” for children and adolescents living with HIV. A team of highly skilled UNICEF experts and coaches, doctors, psychologists, and social workers, led the camp. As part of the camp, teenagers learned how to strengthen their life skills and develop leadership competencies through the Teenergizer methodology. The camp program included outreach sessions and practical training on career guidance, stigma, and discrimination related to HIV, chronic disease management, and the creation of support groups. The camp brought together 200 adolescents from five regions of the country - Almaty, Karaganda, East Kazakhstan, Pavlodar, and Shymkent.

According to the data of the Republican State Enterprise on the Right of Economic Management “Kazakh Scientific Center of Dermatology and Infectious Diseases”, the absolute number of registered cases of HIV infection among underage people as of the beginning of 2022 amounted to 740, i.e., 2.84% of all people living with HIV in the Republic of Kazakhstan (25,978).

Health, as defined by the WHO, is a state of complete physical, spiritual and social well-being, and not just the absence of diseases or physical handicaps. HIV touches on key aspects of the lives of adolescents: physical, psychological, social, and spiritual. Due to life skills, competencies, and quality knowledge about reproductive and mental health, adolescents living with HIV have better chances of moving onto adulthood. Year after year, the age structure of adolescents with HIV is changing, and new retrospective cases are registered; therefore, the involvement of adolescents in public activities, teaching them leadership skills and countering stigma, providing support in disclosure of their status, and developing high adherence to treatment has become essential. Every year brings new information about HIV infection and approaches to working with youth, which should be widely promoted and implemented among adolescents living with HIV.

“Thanks to the camp, children and adolescents living with HIV have boosted their leadership and communication skills. The Teenergizer methodology helped them to better understand themselves, learn to conduct a dialogue, and plan and make steps and decisions important for their lives. We have taught teenagers how to master a profession and land their dream job. The teens have had a series of practical training sessions,” Lyudmila Polyakova, Executive Director of Peer-to-Peer Plus NGO, says.

Valentina Mankiyeva, Project Coordinator of Peer-to-Peer Plus NGO, notes, “A stigma is a socially engineered phenomenon that results in the devaluation of a person and has a negative impact. Because of stigmas and discrimination, children’s rights are often ignored or violated. Stereotypes and fear prevent access to health services and quality of life. There is a need to change existing prejudices against HIV in society. When we speak about eliminating stigmas and discrimination, we know what to do, why we should do it, and we know it makes sense!”

“Adolescents living with chronic diseases need to develop the skills for managing risk factors and monitoring their disease. That requires them to gain the necessary skills and up-to-date knowledge for the most effective use of healthcare and social services,” Farida Duisenbiyeva, Clinical Associate and Head of the Mother and Child Unit, believes.

“Our primary goal is to prepare these children for their future life in society. After attending the teen camp, they will be able to stand up freely against discrimination, and above all, they have become free from stigma and self-stigma themselves. For our adolescents, the major skill is to manage their disease, and in this sense, of course, support groups are a very effective tool. We made sure of this while holding the camp. The formation and education of leaders and the community itself take place in self-help groups. I guess, today, this is the basic task of the camp,” Gulzhakhan Akhmetova, ICAP Clinical Specialist and UNICEF Expert, says.

“Every teenager is entitled to a high quality of life. The teenage years are the best time for setting goals and objectives for the future. The presence of the virus in the body should not be an impediment preventing one from living a full life and making the most daring and ambitious plans come true,” Nodar Karimov, National HIV/AIDS Consultant of UNICEF in Kazakhstan, points out

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