Campaign update: January-March 2006
The Unite for Children Unite against AIDS campaign was launched in Mozambique in November 2005. Following the launch event, significant progress has been made in the four programmatic areas (Four Ps) of the campaign as a result of partners working together.
Prevention among children and young peoplePreventing new infections among children and young people is fundamental to halting the spread of the disease. Prevention efforts involve engaging communities in activities to raise awareness of the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. Community theatre groups on HIV prevention and the importance of education focused on gender have been performing in the provinces of Manica and Cabo Delgado. Four groups of young people gave weekly performances to their peers to encourage public debate on HIV and AIDS. The groups, led by Grupo de Teatro do Oprimido (GTO), are linked to the provincial Directorate of Health, with the aim of providing a direct link between communities and health services.
The campaign has led to an expansion of multimedia mobile units, which are used to reach rural communities and encourage community discussion on issues such as reproductive and sexual health, HIV/AIDS, girls’ education and the participation of young people. The mobile units are present in the most affected provinces in the central region and expansion to three other provinces will take place in 2006.
Prevention of mother-to-child transmissionPreventing mothers from infecting their children with HIV through the rapid expansion of mother-to-child transmission programmes (PMTCT) is a challenge in Mozambique. Despite efforts to increase the number of women accessing services, the uptake remains low - only 5% of the total number of pregnant women estimated to be HIV positive received Nevirapine in 2005. During the national meeting on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in March, the Ministry of Health decided to fully integrate PMTCT into ante-natal and maternity services at the primary health care level, and increase the training of staff on PMTCT.
As a result of advocacy efforts, the issue of paediatric treatment featured much more prominently at the national meeting. The steps necessary for national scale up have now been defined, along with clear targets and an integrated package of services, representing a marked improvement from 2005. It was agreed that by 2009, 34% of eligible children (approximately 30,000) will receive treatment. The existing 34 day hospitals will function as sites for referral of complicated cases, training and demonstration and operational research while 33 new treatment sites are proposed for 2006.
The Ministry of Health also concluded that expansion of treatment should focus on rural areas and northern and central regions. The central province of Sofala for example, has the highest prevalence rate in the country (26.5%) but the number of children on treatment remains low - 150 in comparison to 940 in Maputo City. Additional conclusions were that anti-retroviral treatment and medicines for opportunistic infections will be distributed free of charge.
Protection and support for children affected by HIV/AIDS
In March, the urgency of increasing measures to ensure protection and support for children affected by HIV and AIDS was affirmed by President Armando Guebuza through the approval of the Plan of Action for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children. The principle objectives of the Plan are to provide direct support to orphaned and vulnerable children in six basic services- health, education, nutritional and food support, financial support, legal and psycho-social support, in addition to strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Women and Social Action in its mandate as coordinator of the response. The AWEPA pre-seminar and seminar which took place in March also placed the issue of reaching the most vulnerable on the political agenda.