Activities for children with HIV benefit kids and their families, while at the same time educating and involving the community through volunteer opportunities.
Children and HIV
Children who have been diagnosed as HIV positive typically either contracted the virus after being born to mothers who were HIV positive or through an infected blood transfusion. Fortunately, the blood screening process is very strict nowadays, and thus, incidences of HIV infection in children have dropped dramatically in the last decade. However, HIV is still a real threat among adolescents ages 13 and older. While the public is certainly more aware of what a diagnosis of HIV means to an individual, many people are oblivious to the effects that this diagnosis can have on a child.
The world can be a scary place to an HIV-positive child, but activities for children with HIV can help kids cope with the uncertainty of their future. In addition, these activities also offer families and caregivers an outlet for celebrating the day-to-day blessings of life.
Activities for Children with HIV and Their Families
Activities for children with HIV and their families can take several directions. To make any activity a success, however, many volunteers and HIV advocates are needed. The following activities have proven to be successful on repeated occasions.
When the word "AIDS" first echoed through the halls of schools and communities in the 1980s, those who were reported to be HIV positive or diagnosed with AIDS were commonly treated as pariahs in the community. Schools denied admission to children with HIV, and parents protested against those families who insisted their infected children be allowed to attend. Today, the world is much more aware of how HIV is contracted, and communities have rallied to support children with HIV, as well as their families. As a result, local involvement has become paramount to the success of community-oriented activities centered around children with HIV. Popular activities include the following:
Zoo or museum day-Organize a day in which children and their families attend a local zoo or museum. Contact the zoo or museum to find out how to get group discounts, or see if the facility can be closed so that only HIV positive children and their families and volunteers can attend.
Picnic in the park-Host a picnic in the park, complete with food and entertainment by local volunteers. Invite local bands, drama leagues, and other entertainers to donate their time. Ask local restaurants and merchants to donate food and drinks, and ask for volunteers from service organizations and the community to serve and clean-up.
Community softball game-Invite children, their families, their friends, and community volunteers to play in a community-sponsored softball game.
If you would like to create an activity of a longer length, consider a residential or daytime-only camp.
Organize a camp for children and their families. Camps could last as little as one or two nights or as long as a week or two. Invite healthcare workers to counsel and spend time educating children and their families on the various aspects of HIV, including topics like care giving, precautionary measures, what to expect, medicinal breakthroughs, emotional ups and downs, and more. In addition, camp activities should involve fun events, such as fishing, hiking, canoeing, team competitions, drama productions, and more. These camps can provide an outlet for children and their families as well as offer emotional support and include up-to-date information on new aspects of the disease. Popular existing camps for children include Camp Heartland in Minnesota, and Camp Laurel in California. In addition, camps like Jennifer's Camp and Camp Sunburst in California serve children with HIV alongside their families.
In addition to community-based programs and HIV-centered camps, recreational services can provide a variety of activities in which children can participate. Volunteers from local health services, college student volunteers, and friends and family members of the children can offer mentoring services and provide one-on-one recreational activities, including going to the movies, attending ball games, going bowling, overnight camping, hiking, and more. In addition, families, friends, and volunteers can spend time together scrapbooking, journal writing, painting, etc.
Supporting children with HIV, as well as their families, is an important step to individual and community-level understanding and acceptance of children with HIV. In order to maximize effectiveness, try to organize activities that occur on a regular basis and include as large a number of community members as possible.