At EGPAF Ariel Clubs, Children Become Friends for Living -- and Friends for Life
HIV-Positive Youth Learn, Have Fun, and Stand Strong Together
Sometimes, the most important thing for a child to realize is that he or she is never alone. This is especially true for young people living with HIV, particularly those growing up HIV-positive in communities where they might face stigma and discrimination. Ariel Clubs exist for this very reason.
Named in honor of Ariel, Elizabeth Glaser’s young daughter who died of AIDS-related complications in 1988, the clubs ensure that the emotional, psychological, physical, social, and spiritual needs of HIV-positive youth can be met. To the extent possible, EGPAF also works closely with community-based organizations to address the educational, nutritional, socioeconomic, and safety needs of these children—and to make sure they lead healthier lives.
Ariel Clubs continue to grow in popularity across Africa at the many sites EGPAF supports. The first Ariel Club was established in Uganda in May 2006; since then, EGPAF has been able to successfully replicate the model in several other countries including Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, and Tanzania. At these clubs, boys and girls living with HIV are able to forge friendships with other children living with similar experiences, challenges, fears, and hopes – and to do so in a safe, nonjudgmental environment.
HIV-positive children aged five to 18 who receive care and support services at EGPAF-supported sites are eligible to join the clubs. Each club averages between two and three dozen young participants, and meets twice a month. In addition, many of these youth also take part in week-long Ariel Children’s Camps held annually by EGPAF.
The clubs are a flurry of activity as young people meet to discuss topics related to living with HIV, including disclosure of one’s HIV status, adherence to treatment regimens, peer support, and counseling; parents and caregivers are welcome to participate in activities. When the time comes to have fun, games and sports help to foster camaraderie and a healthy, active lifestyle.
“The Ariel Club helped me a lot in coping with the many challenges I face, especially in areas of stigma and adherence,” said former club member Faith, who lives in Uganda.
“I am also helping other children to cope with their HIV status and stigma. One thing I have learned from all the support I have received so far, and from other children who are sick, is that we are all one family.”
- EGPAF's Ariel Club in Tanzania was profiled in IPP Media. Read it here.
- Be inspired by “Stories of Hope” from former Ariel Club attendees Yasin (Tanzania), Faith (Uganda), and Annabella (Uganda).