In many DREAM centers the number of teenagers under treatment is growing. They are children, often orphans, who have been entrusted to their grandparents or other relatives who struggle to take care of them.
Those who are already twelve or thirteen years old, even if they are not adults yet, are burdened with heavy responsibilities and usually there is not much time to play nor resources to go to school.
These children often grow up knowing nothing of their disease because their relatives either don’t feel like talking openly or lack the ability to do so.
Adolescence however is the same all over the world, with its rebellions, dreams, attitudes that sometimes seem unreasonable and irresponsible, refusal and loud tones.
The result is that often teenagers amongst all patients are the ones who find more difficulty to follow the treatment correctly and are weighed down by fear, impatience, sometimes the lack of understanding or rebellion towards those parents who are gone, taken away by AIDS.
About a year ago in the DREAM centers of Blantyre, Balaka and Lilongwe groups of teenagers have been set up and they meet every month with the support of the younger activists.
This represents above all the first opportunity to meet with other kids who live the same problems and to finally feel free from discrimination and contempt by their peers. Besides it is also the occasion to learn more about the meaning of their disease and to understand that together they can deal with it.
At each meeting a nurse, a doctor or other operator of the DREAM center suggests a topic of discussion related to their health.
The questions submitted by the kids are numerous also because the eagerness to know about their concerns is answered in understandable words. Many kids say that once they are grown ups, they would like to become nurses or medical professionals as those operators who have now become their friends.
At the end of July in Balaka a meeting with kids aged between twelve and fifteen years old took place. A nurse gave a lecture about the collection of blood samples. The tubes and some drawings of the circulatory system and blood components passed from hand to hand, arising great interest. Many said that now they understood better why it is important to do the blood test.
At the end of the lecture the group, accompanied by the activists, went to the nearby Chifundo Artisan Network, a laboratory of hand painted batiks.
They were explained about the techniques regarding the preparation of the paper and fabric as well as about the color pigments, while the kids learned new words which they repeated in chorus, saw machines they had never seen before, such as an oven for the fabric as well as the materials prepared with local products.
The visit ended with a small gift for each one and many photos.