According to the December 2009 Ministry of Health report, Uganda has over 130,000 children below the age of 15 who are infected with HIV/AIDS. Sixty six percent of these are in need of urgent antiretroviral treatment (ART). Without it they will die before they turn two years old.
According to the report, only one in every three children that need ART receive it. More disappointingly, ART for children is still largely urban centred. Yet Uganda is clearly a country where majority of the population lives in rural areas.
We could blame a number of factors for the gap; inadequate knowledge and technical skills of service providers in management of HIV/AIDS in children, difficulty in treating children, inadequate paediatric formulations, as well as inadequate and inappropriate health infrastructure. After all, isnâ€™t it always easier and safer to blame somebody else, preferably in public office?
But we are also aware that there are a number of programmes currently offering free treatment for children both in Kampala and a few centres upcountry. So why donâ€™t we have more than just 26% on ART?
Ninety percent of the children infected with HIV get it through mother to child transmission. We must get, every pregnant woman tested for HIV. In this era where it is possible for an HIV-positive mother to have an HIV-negative child, it is a crime to deny the unborn the chance to be born free of the virus.
It is even a bigger crime to deny infected children, the care and treatment they need where it is available. It is everyoneâ€™s responsibility to ensure that children with HIV get the required care and treatment. It is a collective effort that must start with family, friends, neighbours, teachers and peers.
The writer is the advocacy and communications coordinator of Baylor College of Medicine Childrenâ€™s Foundation-Uganda
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HIV programmes have ignored children