Children in Ho Chi Minh City participate in a WWO group activity on future job opportunities.
Since 2005, the Worldwide Orphans Foundation (WWO) Vietnam, a longtime TREAT Asia Pediatric Network member in Ho Chi Minh City, has provided medical, educational, and psychosocial support to over 2,000 children living with HIV and trained over 1,000 adult caregivers—including parents, healthcare providers, and social workers—on how to most effectively care for and support HIV-positive young people. In 2013, WWO received a TREAT Asia Social Support Award to implement a comprehensive disclosure program.
“Through the program, we start working with the kids early on and then all throughout their youth to empower them with psychosocial support and the tools to talk about their status,” says Dr. Jane Aronson, President and CEO of WWO, which also has programs in Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Serbia.
WWO’s Dr. Le Ngoc Oanh presents during the 2014 TREAT Asia Network Meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Often, when children are informed they have HIV, the disclosure counseling and support they receive ends after the initial session; however, many questions and psychosocial issues can arise in the days, months, and years after disclosure. WWO’s disclosure program continues to support kids and caregivers over time through case management, workshops, and home visits.
“The disclosure method is critical to the entire process of pediatric HIV care and treatment, as it influences adherence and positive social interactions and health behaviors,” says Dr. Le Ngoc Oanh, manager of the WWO disclosure program in Vietnam. “However, due to limited resources and skills, including understaffing, this process often cannot be carried out according to consistent standards. Thanks to the TREAT Asia grant, WWO has been able to conduct the necessary capacity building to improve our programs.”
Over the past two years, the WWO Disclosure Program has provided in-depth psychosocial support to 160 HIV-positive children, both living with family and in residential care centers, from Ho Chi Minh City and the Ba Ria province, and has actively involved 113 parents or guardians. WWO staff report that they now have a better understanding of young people’s disclosure needs and how to tailor disclosure programs to meet them. They also report that the participating adults not only gained skills related to caring for and supporting the children, but also developed more positive attitudes about the children’s health and greater trust in their healthcare providers. In addition, WWO hosted trainings for 35 social workers and medical staff to improve their disclosure and case management skills, so they can sustain similar comprehensive disclosure programs in their own facilities.
Dr. Oanh adds that while they are improving services for these HIV-positive children, there is an ongoing need for better disclosure support in other areas of the country, and that WWO hopes to expand its program nationwide.