With the increasing availability of effective treatment, HIV infection is now considered to be a chronic, treatable condition. Supporting 'positive living' – or living full, healthy lives rather than merely 'coping' with HIV – is an essential component of HIV care, and helps adolescents living with HIV to see the future with optimism and confidence. Unfortunately, the support they need to do this is often not available or provided.
For many adolescents living with HIV, the clinic is the only place where they can talk openly about their status and ask questions they might be uncomfortable to ask peers or family members. In this light, health care providers are integral to support for positive living, and they can do this best when they understand and address the complex psychosocial, physical and other support needs of their adolescent patients living with HIV. It is also important to bear in mind that most aspects of positive living require some change of behaviours – this takes time, self-confidence and a supportive environment.
A collaborative multidisciplinary approach is an essential part of supporting positive living; psychologists, social workers, peer supporters, family members, community-based organizations, faith leaders and educators can all be actively involved in supporting adolescents to live positively with HIV, and help to address their ongoing needs and concerns in addition to those of their partners and caregivers.