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NGO: ARVs affecting pupils' academic performance

The NGO says because of ARVs, HIV-infected pupils are more tired, can’t focus and lose concentration.

A red ribbon, the internationally known symbol of AIDS awareness.

CAPE TOWN - An NGO assisting HIV-positive children says while antiretrovirals (ARV) are prolonging their lives, the side-effects may slow down some patients' academic development.

Today marks World Aids Day.

NGO Yabonga counsels about 1,000 Cape Town children, some as young as five, who have HIV/AIDS.

Yabonga runs various programs including educational workshops and trauma counseling for HIV-positive kids.

Centre manager Emily Rudolph says they've noticed some children develop challenges in class.

She explained that young patients become sluggish, and as a result they repeat grades.

"Because of the medication, they are tired, they can't focus and lose concentration as well. It takes them longer to understand what other children might grasp quickly."

Experts warn patients should not stop treatment without first consulting a doctor.

The South African National Aids Council (Sanac) says the number of people infected with HIV annually exceeds the number of pupils who pass matric.

INFECTIONS INCREASING AMONG YOUNG WOMEN

Western Cape health authorities are worried about an increase in infection rates among young people.

This mirrors what experts are recording on a national level.

Sanac says HIV is increasing among young women between the ages of 15 and 24, countrywide.

Sanac blames several factors, including an increase in risky sexual behaviour, with fewer people using condoms.

GRANDMOTHERS' RESOURCES DEPLETED

Some Khayelitsha grandmothers say while they love their aids orphaned grandchildren, they are left emotionally and financially depleted by the added responsibility.

Pensioners are generally expected to decrease their workload while enjoying more time to themselves.

But 67-year-old Yunice Mase says there is no time to slow down as she has to feed seven dependents including three great grandchildren.

The Khayelitsha-based organisation "Grandmothers Against Poverty and Aids" was established to provide a support network for women like Mase.

It gives residents the opportunity to share stories and brainstorm challenges.

SPECIAL CLUBS INTERVENTION

Special ARV clubs are also slowly changing the way HIV-positive Capetonians are accessing live-saving medication.

At least 115,000 people currently bypass lengthy cues outside clinics by receiving treatment at these venues.

More than 1,000 clubs are operational across the peninsula, as the City's Bernadette Van Minnen explains.

"It reduces the time patients spent waiting at facilities, which also in turn eases pressure on facilities where their staff is expected to treat six patients. What these clubs do is that they are ensuring that these people stick to their drug regime."

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