There are an estimated 15,000 children living with HIV in Cambodia, all of whom require medical services and social support that is age-appropriate.
On July 20-21, two AUA staff were invited to visit one of the country’s leading service providers in the field of pediatric HIV care: Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) in Siem Reap. Working at the biggest ARV facility outside of Phnom Penh, AHC staff have extensive experience supporting children and adolescents in both clinical and homecare settings. The purpose of this exchange visit between AUA and AHC was to share this knowledge and expertise so that AUA might apply some of the lessons learned to our own projects in Kampong Cham.
Hosted by the Chief of Counseling, AUA’s Project Manager/Fundraiser and Kampong Cham Field Coordinator were given a unique opportunity to observe the patient workflow at AHC’s HIV/Homecare Unit, sit-in on adolescent counseling sessions, and accompany staff on a home visit.
AHC supports more than 600 young people who are on ARV treatment. Sharing AUA’s belief that a major component of patient care is psychosocial support, part of AHC’s mandate is to offer specialized counseling to both children and adolescent patients. Sitting in on one such session, AUA staff noted the different topic areas covered by adolescent counselors: understanding HIV, reproductive health, and the importance of regularly taking ARV medication and attending doctor’s appointments. There are different topics discussed with children, which are in turn unique to the topics discussed with adults. Understanding how best to approach these complex issues in a way that is appropriate to the patient’s age and level of knowledge is key to providing effective HIV counseling to young people.
AUA staff were particularly interested to learn more about AHC’s peer counseling program. Through this initiative, young volunteers from the PLHIV community lead peer group discussions among patients of a similar age. Volunteers are called upon on a rotating basis to make sure they can fit their duties around their school schedule and other obligations. Since launching the program, AHC staff have found that young people are much more willing to discuss sensitive issues with people their own age. AUA has been inspired to develop a similar activity in our Kampong Cham sites.
Staff also had an opportunity to accompany AHC on a home visit. For children who have poor ARV adherence – especially those who are on second-line treatment – home visits are a crucial component of holistic care.
During the first half of 2016, AUA’s two Kampong Cham sites served 186 young people living with HIV. In Phnom Penh, children are not directly supported at AUA sites, but staff often assist the parents of exposed newborns and young children by referring them to pediatric services. All our staff take a holistic approach to patient care, engaging the partners and children of PLHIV whenever it is possible and appropriate. It is thus imperative that all AUA staff are knowledgeable about serving young people who are living with or at risk of contracting HIV. Through activities such as this exchange, AUA staff can continue to develop their knowledge and skills to better serve PLHIV of all ages.
This activity follows a similar exchange held earlier this year, where AHC staff visited AUA’s field office in Kampong Cham. AUA would like to thank the team at AHC, particularly the HIV/Homecare Unit, for hosting this activity. To read more about AUA’s current counseling and social work activities, click here.