Strengthening the skills of professionals who support people living with HIV
National training for pediatricians and psychologists of AIDS centers
The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, together with UNAIDS and UNICEF, conducted national training for pediatricians and psychologists of AIDS centers. These specialists provide psycho-social services to children and adolescents living with HIV and their families in Uzbekistan.
The purpose of the training was to familiarize participants with the international practice of protecting child rights and interventions in working with children/adolescents living with HIV and their families.
UNICEF experts, psychologists, and teachers of the Department of Social Work of the National University of Uzbekistan facilitated the training. Participants shared the challenges they often face when working with children and adolescents living with HIV and their families.
A key issue concerns HIV status disclosure. According to participants working with this group of people, stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV are a pervasive problem in Uzbekistan. Parents either avoid testing their children for HIV or only obtain a diagnosis when the child is already ill. Some do not disclose the HIV status to their adolescent child, meaning the child does not receive optimum care and treatment and there is higher morbidity and mortality. In many cases, mothers even fear telling their husbands and extended family. Not seldom the diagnosis of a child triggers a divorce, leaving mothers as sole caregivers, struggling with sustaining their livelihood and caring for their child. Many children and adolescents living with HIV experience poor psychosocial well-being. Support networks, consisting of family, peers, social workers, healthcare professionals, and psychologists, are not always available or easily accessible.
“We always explain that the best interests of the child should be at the center of professionals’ work. They should be able to competently advise families on the importance of receiving therapy and where and how to access healthcare and social services”, Yulduzkhon Umarbekova, UNICEF national consultant.
A total of 22 professionals improved their knowledge and skills on how to better ensure the full realization of the rights of children and adolescents living with HIV. Among others, they deepened their understanding of anti-discriminatory approaches in service provision and different counseling methods.