“I want to welcome other adolescents and young people, as I was welcomed..."

Isadora discovered HIV when she was 8 years old, when her mother died. Today, she coordinates the network of adolescents and young people living with HIV in the city where she lives.

UNICEF Brazil
© UNICEF Brasil/2018/J. Laet
UNICEF Brasil/2018/J. Laet
09 July 2018

Until she was 8 years old, Isadora* had a typical child’s daily life. She was the youngest in the family, and was spoiled by her mother and her older sister. But, something changed the story of the family: her mom found out that she was HIV positive. “When the doctors knew about it, my sister and I were tested. We found out that I was the only one infected. My mom already had the virus when I was born and she breastfed me” says the young woman, now 21 years old.

Her mother started the treatment immediately, but she couldn’t resist it and died shortly thereafter. “When I lost my mom, I was devastated. I was 8 years old and I was too attached to her”, Isadora says. She and her sister moved with an aunt, who took care of her treatment.

When I was a teenager, the situation got worse. Isadora says that she became increasingly rebellious and quit the treatment. "My aunt forced me to take the medication, but I never did it, I didn’t take care of myself, I forgot about it. I was always sick, getting in and out of the hospital”, she says. Without the drugs, her health deteriorated quickly.

The great turnaround was possible thanks to Hector*, one of the members of UNICEF’s Viva Melhor Sabendo Jovem project (Young Live Better Knowing). “Had it not been for him, I wouldn’t be here to tell my story”, Isadora says. “He was in charge of the whole welcoming process. We exchanged experiences, he told me about the importance of the treatment and we started getting closer.”

In the first talks with Hector, he invited her to take part in a network of adolescents and young people living with HIV that was being created in the city where she lived. “I accepted the invitation, got involved in the network and began to strengthen myself”, she says. Through the network, Isadora started to participate in meetings with adolescents from different parts of the country, who shared the same challenges and achievements. “In the network, I understood the importance of this welcoming, as well as the importance of the strict adherence to the treatment. I realized that I was not alone, and that was fundamental”, she says.

Today, four years later, Isadora is one of the coordinators of the network and helps other adolescents and young people, as once she was supported by Hector. “Today, I give back what others did for me in the past. It is rewarding. There is nothing better than to be welcomed. It can change a story, as it changed mine.”

About Viva Melhor Sabendo Jovem (Young Live Better Knowing) – is a health strategy aimed at increasing the access of adolescents and young people between 15 and 24 years old to HIV testing, improving treatment adherence among HIV-positive young people, and providing access to information on prevention. According to the Ministry of Health, between 2005 and 2015, the number of children from 15 to 19 years old living with HIV in Brazil increased by 68 percent. Among children from 20 to 24 years old, the number increased by 47 percent.

 

*The name of the teenager and the supporting group were changed to protect the participants’ identity.

 

Brazil, December 2016.