Children and teenagers at the HIV clinic at Tygerberg
Children’s Hospital have been given a novel new comic book which has helped
them to cope with living with HIV.
HIV positive patients at the Tygerberg Children’s Hospital
recently received the first copies of the book to be released in South Africa.
They tell the story of HIV-positive Sipho and his superhero friends. The
superheroes are used to explain the virus, how it affects the immune system and
why medication can help.
“The language is great and the pictures are wonderful. It’s
told in a way that children from 10 to 18 can really relate to,” says Dr Helena
Rabie, who heads up the family clinic at Tygerberg Children’s Hospital, which
sees over 1 000 patients a month, many of them children.
Comic written in 5
The MediKidz comic books have been translated from English
into Sotho, Zulu, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Over 25 000 comic books featuring Sipho
are to be distributed to clinics and other public facilities in five provinces
over the next three months.
The comic book has highlighted the excellent work being done
at Tygerberg Children’s Hospital to care for children with HIV. Families from
communities ranging from Ravensmead and Nyanga to the Winelands areas depend on
the hospital for care and treatment.
The hospital cares for tiny babies up to 18-year-olds and is
pleased to report a dramatic decrease in the number of cases of children with
Dr Rabie says it’s important for the hospital to reach out
to teenagers in particular.
Living with a chronic
disease as a teen
“Adolescence is a very challenging time for children with
chronic disease, including HIV. It’s important to feel accepted and to be
encouraged to take your medicines. We need to nurture and support them a lot.”
Some of the children and teenagers who regularly come to the
Tygerberg Children’s Hospital clinic, spent several Saturday mornings writing
and rehearsing a play about their experiences of being HIV positive. They performed the play to celebrate the
launch of the comic books at the clinic.
“They spoke about how they feel about being HIV positive,
and how they had discovered they had HIV. They were honest about their feelings
of rejection, but they also talked about having a future and how to live
positively. It was very inspiring,” said Dr Rabie.
The comic books are seen as a small but important step in
helping children and teenagers to cope with HIV.
“This is a unique and innovative educational resource. We
hope it will help to educate children and adolescents on HIV in a language they
understand using superhero characters that give them a sense of empowerment and
allow them to engage and identify with the key themes and messages in the
book,” says Njoki Kariuki, of Access to Care at pharmaceutical company, Abbvie,
which funded the book.
Doctors gave insights
The content was devised by doctors who specialise in medical
education for children, led by Dr Kim Chilman Blair from Medikiz UK and
reviewed by two South African paediatricians, Professor Ashraf Coovadia and Dr
The superheroes include characters called ‘Skinderella’, the
skin and bone specialist, ‘Gastro’, who promises to tell you all you need to
know about ‘your tum, your bum and all the tubes invetween’ and ‘Pump’ who
gives readers the low-down on the heart and blood vessels.
Children at Tygerberg Children’s Hospital were delighted to
receive their copies of the book and said they would take them home and