Baker Bakashaba is a Ugandan doctor and an IAS Person-Centred Care Advocate, recognized for his work on the implementation of the Young People and Adolescent Peer Support (YAPS) programme with The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) in Uganda. The programme takes a person-centred care approach for adolescents and young people living with and affected by HIV. This is his story …
"It is so exciting to see the empowerment that comes from working as a part of YAPS in Uganda. Having responsibility, as well as an ability to make an impact in the local community, is hugely beneficial to the individual involved, the individual in care and the programme itself."
The need for a different approach
Young people look at life differently: they have different aspirations, approaches and energies. They also have different needs, both physically and sociologically, from other age groups. We need to take time to understand how these factors interact with HIV. Young people experience an HIV diagnosis like receiving a stamp with stigma attached. We need a different approach that is tailored to them, their needs, aspirations and spaces. Having models like YAPS is incredibly important for better health outcomes.
Part of meeting young people in their spaces is engaging through social media. I engage a lot on social media (through Twitter and WhatsApp). I have noticed that people feel more confident speaking out on social media and asking their genuine questions and asking about the care they desire. People feel less judged there, which allows them to receive and process the information they need to address their vulnerabilities and care needs.
Layers of complexities
A lot of struggles come with being a young person living with HIV. Trying to come to terms with yourself becomes more complicated when also trying to come to terms with living with HIV. The harder a young person is impacted by stigma, the more challenging the entire treatment process.
Another issue is HIV layering with other complexities, such as teen pregnancy, which is quite high in Uganda and, without proper treatment, results in an increase in vertical HIV transmission. This is why it is important to get young people up to speed on these conversations so they can have an effective voice in their treatment plans and needs.
It is so exciting to see the empowerment that comes from working as a part of YAPS in Uganda. Having responsibility, as well as an ability to make an impact in the local community, is hugely beneficial to the individual involved, the individual in care and the programme itself.
A worthwhile investment
The best thing you can do for young people is to help build their capacity. It can be a heavy investment at the start but, when a lot of young people understand their condition and the need to adhere, it becomes a lot easier in the long run to treat and is a lot less expensive. You have fewer cases of advanced HIV to manage; it is better for individuals and the healthcare system overall and also reduces transmission. All of this learning was based on the Zvandiri model out of Zimbabwe initially, which highlights the importance of knowledge sharing across countries. By refusing to silo information, we can be stronger together than apart.