Paidamoyo Chipunza recently in Kadoma Government will soon embark on a campaign to encourage parents on HIV treatment to have their children tested as well.
Addressing journalists at an HIV and Aids workshop organised by the National Aids Council in Kadoma recently, deputy director for prevention of mother to child transmission and paediatric HIV care and treatment in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Nyika Mahachi, said of the estimated 121 111 children needing treatment, only 38 percent were on treatment.
Dr Nyika attributed the low treatment coverage for children to few children knowing their status, limited sites offering treatment for children as well as lack of confidence with health workers to work with children.
“We have realised that most parents on treatment have never had their children tested of HIV hence the decision to have a campaign meant to encourage these parents to have their children tested,” said Dr Nyika.
He said the campaign code named : ‘test your child’ will be launched as pre-campaign to the World Aids Day commemorations.
Dr Nyika said Government’s response to children living with HIV was also pathetic with only 527 sites initiating children on treatment against 1009 sites for adults and 1560 for pregnant women.
He said about 1 400 clinics throughout the country are now giving ARVs to all pregnant and breastfeeding women regardless of their CD4 Count level, a programme known as option B+, in line with the new WHO treatment guidelines.
Dr Nyika said Government’s target was to have all the 1 560 antenatal clinics in the country rollout option B+ by December.
“We are on track and we thing by year end all the PMTCT sites in the country would be giving ARVs to all pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers regardless of their CD4 Count,” he said.
According to 2009 estimates, over 150 000 children under the age of 15 in Zimbabwe are infected with HIV and one out of every eight children die from HIV and Aids – related complications before the age of five.
Further, about 7 000 children die every year as a result of HIV and, in most cases, those children would have failed to access paediatric ART.
Without treatment, half of the HIV-infected children die before they reach the age of two.