Gaborone Teen Club: Dealing with Disclosure

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The following post is courtesy of Molly Waite, an Adult Volunteer for Molepolole and Gaborone Teen Clubs:

The issue of disclosure weighs heavily in the hearts and minds of many HIV-positive adolescents. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

 Gaborone Teen Club: Dealing with Disclosure

One of our local Teen Club members in Molepolole seemed pretty content in school, until a few weeks ago. She announced that she wanted to attend a state boarding school because of family issues at home. I went along and tried to help her find a spot in the boarding school. In the meantime she decided to attend Teen Club with me in Gaborone. On our way to Gaborone, I inquired about school. She said she was upset because the teachers treated her differently ever since she left her backpack in the classroom and was afraid that someone must have found out she was HIV positive, perhaps from finding ARV medications in her bag. Now the teachers and students stare at her when they talk about HIV.

When we arrived at Gaborone Teen Club early Saturday morning, we found out the topic for the older teens to discuss was the disclosure of one’s HIV status – how fitting! I led one of the small groups as an adult counselor and the girl I came with was in another. We began by listening to an excellent panel of young adults explain how they learned their HIV status and also when and how they decided to publicly disclose their status. The presentation was followed by questions from the teens.

Each of the groups then prepared skits on different ways disclosure might occur. Two of the teens in my group acted out a skit involving students returning from gym class when some medication falls out of a bag. The denial and eventual disclosure was very well presented. When we returned to the large group, we saw some amazing acting and convincing school scenarios that everyone could relate to well. There was also lots of laughter watching students play the roles of teachers, students, boyfriends and girlfriends. More discussion followed.

I saw the girl I came with after the session and asked what she thought of the activities. Her reply was “Perfect.” I then inquired if she wanted to see a counselor to discuss her situation at school. She said yes. We arranged for her to see the counselor before lunch. With the girl’s consent, I then talked to the counselor to find appropriate ways for dealing with the situation. Ultimately, the student was helped with a very immediate problem and I was given possible strategies to assist her.

Thanks to Teen Club, the girl I came with could deal with her problem through the skits and small group discussions and receive individual counseling. Since that Teen Club event we have had several follow up meetings in our village with a social worker from the hospital and the school counselor. The girl’s mother also came to some of the meetings. As of now, the girl has great ambivalence about staying in school. However, at our local Molepolole Teen Club, the other teens encouraged her to finish the school year before looking for another school. We will see what happens…