Dear Joanne,

Recently, a twelve-year old student came to her Ubuntu counselor after class with an urgent concern – she thought she might be pregnant. As the counselor listened to her story probing gently for additional details a disturbing picture came into focus. The girl was being sexually abused by a family acquaintance that her mother was allowing to stay in their home since he contributed much of the monthly rent. The mother did not know of the situation, as she was out of the home at work in the afternoon hours when the girl returned from school. Eventually, we learned that the perpetrator’s regular girlfriend was dying of AIDS.

Fortunately, our counselors know how to handle cases of childhood pregnancy, abuse and HIV/AIDS. It is not unusual to have to deal with multiple issues in the same case. The girl was immediately escorted to the Child Abuse unit at the local hospital where she underwent an examination that confirmed the abuse and pregnancy. Due to her age, the doctor determined that she needed an abortion for medical purposes, obtained consent from the child and her mother, and terminated the pregnancy. The girl was put on a short-course of antiretroviral therapy (called post-exposure prophylaxis) to help minimize the risk of HIV infections. She is currently testing negative, but is still in the window period. Her Ubuntu counselor went to her liaison at the Child Protection Unit of the local police, and the perpetrator was arrested and is awaiting trial.

The child is back in school and receiving intensive post-traumatic counseling sessions from her Ubuntu counselor, a psychiatrist, and our referral partner, Childline. Her mother is also receiving counseling and supportive services to avoid the situation recurring. We are helping mother and child apply for income grants, and obtain nutritional supplements so they do not expose themselves to danger due to poverty.

When the child is ready, her Ubuntu counselor will prepare her for court. The Ubuntu counselor who managed this case has her annual salary supported by TIAS ARMS.

Jacob Lief
Ubuntu Education Fund

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