Kotou’s Story

September 29, 2014

"I'm young and HIV positive"

Kotou, 16 years-old, is a young teenage girl in her first year in high school in the central part of the country. Without a father or mother, her uncle takes care of her.

Before his death in 2009, Kotou’s father informed his brother of his HIV status and that of his wife who died in 2004. After his brother death, Kotou’s uncle takes Kotou to be tested for HIV. The test reveals that Kotou also has HIV. She is only 12 years old and does not know she's just been tested for HIV. With the support of her uncle, Kotou is taken to the pediatric ward at CHU in Treichville. Her uncle has promised to do everything possible so that this niece will live and receive the best care available. However, he does not have the heart to tell her about her status.

Over time, Kotou, who continues to grow well, begins to ask questions about the drugs she is taking. She wants to know why she has to suffer? Why is it so important for her to record the dates and times?  How long will she have to take these drugs? All questions jostling in her head, Kotou decides to conduct her own investigation in 2012. She notes the names of the drugs and starts an internet search. Kotou discovers that her medications are those for HIV/AIDS. This means that this is a person living with HIV. Shocked and upset by her discovery, Kotou went in tears to her aunt, the younger sister of her deceased mother. Following their conversations, she learns that she was infected when her mother was breastfeeding her.

Returning home with her uncle, Kotou has neither the strength nor the courage to inform him of her discovery. She will keep her secret until June 2013. It is with a letter that she tells her uncle that she now knows her HIV status. Surprised by the contents of the letter, confused, and also so upset that these things happened, her uncle decides to break the ice. He calls his niece into the bedroom and, in turn, confirms what she already knows.  At first, the atmosphere is tense, gradually it becomes an exchange of the emotion and pain they have both faced.

Her uncle reassures her and tells her that he will always be there for her. After this conversation, Kotou begins to understand why her uncle insisted on her taking the medications regularly and did not tolerate any delay. Before, their relationship was so confrontational, and now it is a relationship of trust and sharing. When she feels sad and alone, she quickly runs into the arms of her uncle.

Since learning of her status and ongoing discussions with her uncle, she tries to live normally like other teenagers her age.

Kotou is well integrated in school. She is engaged in sports and cultural activities. She feels no guilt because she says it's God's will.  She has the support of the medical staff and social workers working in the CHU Treichville pediatric department. She regularly receives information on HIV/AIDS and is learning to live with a positive attitude.
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This story was written by a psychologist working in the CHU Treichville pediatric department.

Since 2013,  Foundation Ariel Glaser has been implementing a pilot project which utilizes psychologists at the University Hospital (CHU) to improve the treatment of children in care.