Teenagers like to take responsibility for themselves and it is not unusual for them to become secretive. We know that all teenagers with health conditions often stop taking their medication for periods of time, or may take it sporadically. We also know this can be down to different issues to do with growing up, some of which are covered in the section on teenagers. (add link)
A study (Roger Pebody 2011) of HIV positive young people showed that two-thirds took their medication regularly. These young people said that what helped them were reminders and support from family, carers and their friends.
Those who could not take their medication in front of family or friends because those people didn’t know they had HIV found taking medication more difficult. Some mentioned that if they didn’t need to keep HIV such a secret, it would improve how regularly they take their medicine.
Not taking medication can make some teenagers feel they have control over HIV, and that they can cope with the range of emotions being HIV positive can bring. If you have HIV, you may remember a time when you felt angry that you have to live with it. Taking medication every day can for some people be a constant reminder of HIV which brings on feelings of anger. A way to avoid facing this is to stop the medication which then stops the HIV reminder.
If you can understand some of how your child is feeling, you may be in a better place to support them in coming through this stage.
If you can understand that your teenager needs to feel more control over their HIV, you may be able to help them come to terms with this. If you can show them some understanding of their feelings and allow them the time and space with you to express how they are feeling, you will help them to work through this. Learning to live with HIV is a long process and so is learning to manage taking treatment. Getting angry with them or lecturing them will not help, but sharing your experiences might.
Your child’s nurse, doctor or a support service will be able to help you with this. Remember that not taking medicine is not about not caring – it’s about something your child is going through and talking to them in a calm way to try and find out what this is and what will help them is the best way forward.