13 October 2016
Reports that some parents on antiretroviral therapy are reluctant to have their children tested for HIV are worrying.
An HIV positive parent’s refusal to have their child tested for HIV is like a starving father’s refusal to let someone who is helping him with food ask his children if they are hungry, fearing they are indeed hungry.
It is really strange to learn that paediatric ART coverage is still very low because only a cruel parent denies their child access to ARVs if they need them.
If most parents who are on ART don’t know their children’s status, this means these parents are fine with watching their children’s health deteriorate eventually leading to death. Ideally there should be no need to embark on a campaign to encourage parents to have their children tested because plain logic should tell any loving parent to check their child’s status.
When a parent gets a cold, they try their best to ensure that their child does not catch the cold but at the first sign of symptoms, they rush their child to the doctor – even if it is a false alarm.
It is a good thing there was a countrywide Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) initiation training of nurses to expedite and improve paediatric ART coverage which will allow decentralisation of the service to lower levels such as clinics and also empower nurses to start children on ART.
Revelations that low uptake of paediatric ART was significantly associated with health service factors, where only children seen by a doctor were likely to be initiated on ART show that the parents are not well educated on how to handle children who were exposed to HIV.
With Pediatric ART coverage at only 40 percent something must be done urgently to educate parents on the need for pediatric ART and the risks of not getting children tested.
As a result, at least 70 percent of children are dying before reaching their fifth birthday because of HIV and Aids – a situation that can easily be avoided.
Over 160 000 children are living with HIV and Aids in Zimbabwe but very little is being done to ensure they do not die early and live a full life like the adults who consistently take their ARVs.
ART is to an HIV positive child what food is to a starving child and parents – of all people – should know that and get their children tested.
The same way it is important for parents to know their HIV status and to stick to their ART to safeguard their lives, they should ensure their babies get the same drugs in the event that they are also HIV positive.