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Pediatric conference

 Pediatric conference

Prioritising care for children with HIV

By Jacky Achan

At the start of the national response to HIV, the focus was mainly on adults, observes to Dr Denis Tindyebwa Chairperson of the organising committee of the National Paediatric and Adolescent HIV conference.

“They (adults) at least had the money and could afford treatment. There was little knowledge that children could also be treated and respond to treatment just like adults,” he says.

There was, therefore, need to inform the public of the benefit of treatment even for children and adolescents. Dr Cordelia Katureebe the National Coordinator for both Paediatric and Adolescent HIV Services at the Ministry of Health says at the time over 27,000 babies were born with HIV annually.

“There was a need to create awareness about the alarming statistics of children still being born with HIV. We developed a need to advocate for high level discussion about the plight of children and adolescents infected and affected by HIV/ AIDS,” she says.

Paediatric experts that had been providing care for children and adolescents that were living with HIV tabled their concerns at the national subcommittee for paediatric and adolescent HIV care as well as to Ministry of Health calling for national dialogue on HIV care for children and adolescents.

The idea was agreed to and the conference was started as an annual event, and later every two years. For the next three days starting today, the eighth national conference that has attracted over 700 participants from all over the country mostly health workers, doctors, nurses from all districts providing HIV care and treatment will convene in Kampala at Hotel Africana under the theme: Closing the gaps in paediatric and adolescent HIV: Making 90-90-90 target a reality.

Also to attend are programme managers on HIV in the country and youth selected all over the country

State of HIV among children

Uganda registers an estimated 33 new HIV infections per day among young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years. According to the 2015 national statistics 78,295 adolescents between ages 10 and 19 were living with HIV. New infections among the same age group stood at 9,276.

However, comprehensive knowledge of HIV, as well as prevention and treatment services among young people, remains low. Last year, adolescents who had an uptake of viral load test stood at 21%, but those who had been retained on antiretroviral treatment for the 12 months stood at 79%.Those who had viral repression stood at 75.2%.

First conference

According to Dr Tindyebwa, the first conference aimed at championing early identification of children with HIV, early treatment and preventing mother to child transmission of HIV. However, he says the general objective has always been to increase awareness, focus on availability of new remedies to prevent infection among children and share research on HIV. The conference is used to share research from different parts of the world.

“When we present the findings, the Government adopts them for the benefit of children and adolescents,” Tindyebwa says. He further explains that most adolescents have grown and need attention. “It is the adolescents getting more infection and losing the battle to HIV more than any other age group in the country,” he says.

Key action points

  • There is need for more financial commitment from the Government and donors 
  • Increased advocacy and visibility for paediatric and adolescent HIV care
  • Involvement of adolescents in their care through planning, recognising their role in advocacy and peer support.
  • Improved treatment options for HIV infected children that promote better adherence to treatment.

Implementation

Katureebe says to a large extent the key action plans of the conference have been implemented and have benefited children and adolescents. There exists a national officer at the AIDS Control programme who is in charge of adolescent HIV care and treatment services.

“This role provides guidance on policy, guidelines as well as co-ordination of adolescent HIV care services,” she says. The country has also identified champions to spearhead key programmatic areas where advocacy and visibility were needed.

The First lady, Janet Kataaha Museveni is championing the Elimination of Mother to child transmission (EMTCT) programme. In addition, King Oyo of Toro has been named as a UNICEF/ UNAIDS Global Health Ambassador with a specific focus in leading commitment towards HIV/AIDS prevention among young people. 

The country has also effectively rolled out the Test and Treat strategy to all health care facilities and over 95% of children at the health facilities are on anti-retroviral treatment. Viral load testing was also scaled up as the best way to monitor children and adolescents on anti-retroviral therapy.

Gains registered

According to Katureebe ever since the first conference, antiretroviral treatment coverage among HIV infected children below 15 years has increased to 62%.

Also the roll out of adolescent HIV care trainings nationwide has supported the development of knowledge and skills among health workers in adolescent HIV care and treatment Uganda has also registered 86% reduction in new infections among children.

She states over 80% of health facilities in Uganda are now able to provide paediatric HIV care and treatment services which is an improvement from 42%.

Issues raised

  • The low paediatric antiretroviral treatment coverage, 
  • High number of children born with HIV in Uganda
  • Lack of friendly paediatric treatment formulations
  • High losses from care among HIV infected women.
  • Low emphasis on adolescent HIV care in the country.
  • Role of psychosocial support in HIV care programmes.
  • Low level of HIV testing for children and adolescents.
  • Issues on mortality among infected adolescents.

 

This post was syndicated from The most recent articles . Click here to read the full text on the original website.

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