People living with HIV and Aids in the Rwenzori region want the government to recruit teachers with HIV counselling skills to handle pupils born with the virus. The activists argue that many of children continue to drop out of school as a result of stigma because there are no teachers with counselling skills.
The issue of poor counselling services in schools featured prominently on Wednesday, during a HIV/AIDS conference in Fort Portal organised by the Ministry of Health and Baylor-Uganda.
The activists argue that many children continue to drop out of school as a result of stigmatisation because there are no teachers with counselling skills.
Bernard Muhindo, the chairperson of People Living with HIV in Kasese district says that there is an increasing number of pupils with HIV and Aids in schools in Kasese district, but some teachers lack skills to handle them.
He says that lack of skilled counsellors remains a challenge in schools especially when children are subjected to stigma as a result of their health status.
Naome Murungi from Ntoroko district says that the education and health departments in local governments should provide some funds to equip some teachers with counselling skills.
Murungi adds that if not handled professionally, the condition can lead students into making wrong and uninformed decisions.
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Vincent Kamara, a health worker in Bundibugyo district admits that absence of counselling services affects the education of infected children in schools. Kamara says that if schools lack counsellors, they should hire the services of private counsellors to speak to the pupils.
He however says that counsellors need to be at the school permanently to attend to the needs of the pupils.
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Dr. Doreen Ondo, from the Ministry of Health, says that the Ministry is in the process of developing a school health policy to address health matters in all institutions of learning.
According to Ondo, the policy will include issues such as HIV/Aids, counselling, sanitation and hygiene and medication.
Dr. Adeodata Kekitiinwa, the Executive Director Baylor-Uganda, says that while the National Policy Guidelines for HIV counselling and testing emphasise that children should be accompanied by parents or guardians, some children report to health centres unaccompanied and are also unable to express themselves making the process difficult.
She says that there is also need for provision of child-friendly services, guidelines and antiretrovirals for children which may provide hope to improve counselling.