Seminar 9: Children, Young People and HIV

22 September 2005

On the 22nd September 2005 the 9th AHRF seminar day was held at the Resource Centre, Holloway Road, London. The theme of the day: Children, Young People and HIV. Dr Jane Anderson, co-chair of the Forum, invited the 100 plus delegates to join in a short discussion session, where participants were asked to think about the important issues facing people working with children and young people from African communities in the UK. There were many areas raised, including intergenerational conflicts, difficulties discussing sex and cultural integration (see Box 1).

Shamser Sinha, researcher fellow in sexual health at City University, made the first presentation of the day about a recent study that aimed to explore factors affecting the choices that teenagers in East London make about their relationships and sexual behaviour. The study recruited 2675 young people, aged 15- 18 from different ethnic backgrounds. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods the survey highlighted the diversity in sexual behaviour among and between ethnic groups and a need for flexible service delivery. Although the largest number of respondents were from the Bangladeshi community the survey did find that boys from African communities were more likely to use condoms than other particpants.

Martha Chinouya, a social scientist at London Metropolitan University, presented her work on the meaning of HIV with African families. She began by examining the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. It was within this framework she developed her research, comprising of 60 African parents (and their families) living with HIV. The research examined the tensions children face when told HIV affects them. It examined how parents made sense of children’s rights, access to HIV information and how the children themselves viewed their rights. The study found that notions of family were complicated by a number of issues, most notably migration and poverty. Parents found it hard to accept that their children had rights, when they themselves appeared to have so few. Parents were protective of their children and therefore reluctant to disclose their HIV status. They were concerned about stigma at school, most especially since HIV is not an everyday issues in UK society. Focus groups with young people aged 8-16 years revealed that children welcomed information about HIV and although unaware of their rights, were in favour of the principles behind them. Children expressed concern about communicating with their parents and felt that there was a need to assist parents in communicating with their children about HIV.

After lunch, Gareth Tudor-Williams, Clinical Senior Lecturer aty Imperial College and Chair of the Children’s HIV Association took part in a Question and Answer session with delegates. On the subject of disclosure he agreed that parents should be encouraged to speak honestly with their children about HIV in the family. This is especially true when it comes to HIV testing, because although families might want to protect children, they often want to be part of the process. Many tools have been developed to involve children in the diagnostic process, including a CD-ROM currently being used at St Mary’s Hospital.

The final presentations of the day were from Clarissa White and Lucy Joyce, researchers at the British Market Research Bureau. They described the considerations involved in designing qualitative research with young people aged 11 and above. Gaining ethical approval for studies involving children is especially important as is gaining informed consent. Researchers should consider issues of confidentiality, safety and incentives. Research findings should be disseminated in ways that are accessible to young people.

Box 1. Important issues for African children and young people

  • Lack of knowledge.
  • Sex is a taboo subject.
  • Still evidence of mother to child transmission.
  • Young people face a culture conflict.
  • Daisy-chaining: young people are linking up with each other via mobile phones to engage in group sex.
  • Young people do not know they are infected; they do not know their status.
  • Cultural integration: young people face difficulties talking about their cultures.
  • There is a need for counselling to deal with emotional trauma.
  • Children need to be involved in meetings which concern them, rather than to have ideas imposed on them.
  • Parents need to be involved in meetings which affect their children.
  • Mechanisms and facilities need to be in place to enable parents to have an open relationship with their children.
  •  ‘Peer education’ has proven to be effective.
  • The media portrays Africa and HIV in a negative light.
  • Information for young people needs to be updated.
Last Updated November 16, 2007