Vulnerable Child Update: Nicholas

Written by: Gordon Pearce, Kumasi District Co-Ordinator / Volunteer

(On behalf of all the staff and volunteers at LIFOC)

This month has been a momentous one for Nicholas, as his mother finally consented to him being informed of his HIV status. Although she has known for two years that both she and Nicholas are living with the virus, the mother had previously been unwilling to disclose the information to her son or other family members for fear of stigmatisation. However, she now feels that the benefits of Nicholas taking an active role in the management of his health outweigh any risk that family and friends might react negatively. Obviously the child needed to be told the truth eventually and so it was really a case of the sooner, the better.

Nicholas received the news at during a hospital appointment on Friday 27th April, and it seems that at present he is coping very well. He was given comprehensive counselling by his doctor and other hospital staff to help him deal with the revelation and continue to approach his life with optimism; the idea of ‘Positive Living’ was discussed to ensure Nicholas understood that people with HIV can still enjoy life and pursue their goals, especially when their health is closely monitored and they receive the right nutrition and antiretroviral treatment. In addition he learnt about the different drugs which he is currently being prescribed and the importance of taking them correctly and consistently as advised by the doctor, since an ART regime only partially adhered to can sometimes be more detrimental to a patient’s health than not taking the medication at all.

Despite his HIV positive status, Nicholas’ general level of health is currently satisfactory. His antiretroviral treatment is working to suppress the virus and artificially boost his CD4 count (the most commonly used measure of immune system strength), and notwithstanding a recent slight fever which has since cleared up he has not succumbed to any opportunistic infections. At the hospital his height was measured at 155cm and weight was found to be 40kg, both healthy values for a boy of fifteen which suggest that the specialised diet and nutritional supplements he is receiving are having a positive impact.

Light for Children staff paid a visit to Nicholas’ home on Sunday and he was in good spirits – smiling and happy to talk about his education and hobbies. He told us that his favourite sport is football, which he plays regularly with other children in the neighbourhood, and that the subject he enjoys most at school is art. In the week before the Easter break Nicholas took his end-of-term exams, where in keeping with his preference he thought his best performance was in art. He should find out the results of the assessment in the next couple of weeks when school starts again after the holidays. Nicholas was fortunate to be able sit the examinations at all; it was only because of a generous donation from one of LIFOC’s sponsors that he was able to pay his school fees in time to prevent him being withdrawn from the institution altogether.

Light for Children made a further payment of 1,055,000 Cedis to Nicholas’ mother covering his school fees for the coming term, his next month’s ART and nutritional supplements, and three months’ worth of housekeeping payments to help with the cost of uniforms and stationery. Again, this was only made possible through the generous support of the child’s sponsor without whom his chances of living the fulfilling life he deserves would be very much reduced.

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