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The following post is courtesy of Prentiss Darden, a Gaborone Teen Club Volunteer:
Gaborone Teen Club Tackles Peer Pressure and Dr. Paul Says Goodbye!
I arrived in Gaborone, Botswana, four months ago to work with The Botswana Project, one of the Botswana Teen Club’s partners. The project proposes an innovative solution to challenges surrounding treatment adherence for people taking ARVs. We are developing a system that sends text messages to cell phones as reminders for people to take medicines, go to clinic appointments, and refill prescriptions. The service will be free for all patients and doctors involved and its goals are to enhance communication and increase treatment adherence. The Botswana Project is a public-private partnership between us at the Botswana Association for Positive Living (BAPL) and Mascom, a major telecommunications provider in Botswana.
Our project team attends the Gaborone Teen Club every last Saturday of the month as volunteers to facilitate with activities for the 100+ 13-19 year old teens who are also patients at Baylor. Teen Club is a place where they can receive psychosocial and peer support. Many of them consider it a “home away from home” where they can be free to talk about what it is like living with HIV.
April’s Teen Club life skills theme was “Friendship and Peer Pressure”. The adult volunteers and teens split into groups, had discussions about friendship and what one values in a friend, and then came up with skits to act out peer pressure scenarios. The kids were hilarious. One group pretended to be in a club, dancing and drinking, getting all crazy, and pressuring their friends to drink. Another skit involved a woman with HIV declining the pressure of her boyfriend to have intercourse. He didn’t think people would see them as adults if they didn’t have a child, but she didn’t want to pass on HIV to her baby. The skits were well suited for situations these kids actually encounter here in Botswana – they did a great job.
On a side note, Dr. Paul Mullan has been working at the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence in Gaborone for years now and said his goodbyes to the kids at Teen Club this past Saturday, as he is returning to the United States to pursue other endeavors. He said a few words about how much he has seen Teen Club grow over the years and that it is the teens’ involvement and commitment that really makes it run. He got a little choked up, understandably. Stux, a 15 year old who is one of the Teen Leaders, addressed Dr Paul and thanked him for his support. Stux said when he was a little boy, Dr Paul would always make him take his medicine. Often times Stux didn’t want to take his meds and he’d get upset, but Dr Paul would always make him take it. Stux told Dr. Paul, “I’m a big boy now because of you. I’ve grown strong and big because of you.” It was heart warming to see the young man thanking the doctor who helped him take his ARVs to be where he is now. It was a touching moment.