|© UNICEF video|
|A UNICEF partnership with Baylor College of Medicine’s International Pediatric AIDS Initiative has given treatment to nearly 2,500 children.|
By Nora Nonet
MASERU, Lesotho, 3 February 2009 – In 2005, only about 20 children in Lesotho were receiving antiretroviral treatment. Three years later, a UNICEF partnership with Baylor College of Medicine’s International Pediatric AIDS Initiative has given treatment to nearly 2,500 children.
Malibe was one of the first children to benefit from the initiative. He receives free antiretroviral drugs and paediatricians carry out a complete examination to make sure that he is following the treatment correctly.
Additionally, doctors also check for pathologies associated with the virus.
“We won’t be doing our job unless we address everything that’s affecting him,” said paediatrician Dr. Rajesh K. Daftary “So in addition to treating him for HIV, we need also to treat him for malnutrition. Which is why we’re giving him Plumpynut, which is also known as ready-to-use therapeutic feeding.”
Early diagnosis is crucial
In a country where one quarter of the adult population is living with HIV, a lot needs to be done.
A particularly crucial development has been the introduction of early diagnosis of HIV for infants as young as six-weeks-old. In the past, it was required to wait 18 months before performing the test.
In 2006, early diagnosis was only offered by six pilot centres. Today, 115 health centres offer the test and 90 per cent of children born to mothers living with HIV will receive it.
Rural centres offer care
Another issue in this mountainous country is getting medical care to places that are difficult to reach.
Since the country’s launch of the ‘Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS’ campaign three years ago, Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV(PMTCT) has been scaled-up and access to treatment for children living in mountainous areas has increased.
Today, even isolated health centres have the capacity to offer free PMTCT services and antivetroviral treatment for children. At the Tsekeke health centre, 5 hours by road from the capital of Maseru, a paediatrician comes once a month to support the local health staff.
Lesotho is a concrete example that insuring widespread access to treatment and providing free services for HIV positive women and children is possible.