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Zimbabweans turn away from AIDS affected children

Zimbabwe’s national response to the crisis of children affected by Aids is grossly inadequate, a report has said.

In a statement, the Organisation for Public Health Interventions and Development (Ophid) said while the government has made strides in providing diagnosis and care for adults through the national HIV strategy, children continue to be under serviced, resulting in preventable deaths.

“These children, whether HIV infected or not, have a higher risk of morbidity and mortality than infants who are not ‘exposed’ ,” said the statement.

Zimbabwean statistics show that HIV contributes nine percent of deaths in children under-five years.

Ophid expressed concern over the number of children living with HIV who are on medication compared to adults.

“There are only 42 percent compared to treatment-eligible adults who are on ART (antiretroviral therapy) and standing at 72 percent,” Ophid’s statement said.

Research has shown that without treatment, half of the children born with HIV will die before their second birthday and 80 percent will die before their fifth birthday.

“In order to contribute to wider child health targets, we call upon communities and health care providers to step up efforts on the identification of HIV-exposed children and retaining them in care,” read the statement released yesterday.

The remarks come as Zimbabwe together with the rest of the world is commemorating Paediatric Week meant to raise awareness about health problems maiming children globally.

Sara Mtongwiza, FACE Paediatric HIV programmes director, said early infant diagnosis is the gateway to overcoming the HIV burden in children.

“In order to expedite early infant diagnosis, we need to look at expanding our opportunities to offer a test to a child, such as Expanded Programme for Immunisation (EPI), Early Childhood Education (ECD) and nutrition programmes to ensure that children are tested for HIV,” Mtongwiza said.

“Those that test positive will be initiated on treatment as soon as possible.”

Zimbabwe has been commended for successfully providing life-prolonging drugs to HIV-positive pregnant and breastfeeding women under the Option B+ programme which seeks to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

In 2013, 93 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women received antiretrovirals. According to Ophid, this has resulted in the rate of HIV transmission from mother to the baby dropping from 18 percent in 2011 to 9,61 percent in 2013. -Daily News ZW

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