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UNICEF-supported clinic offers hope to those living with HIV/AIDS in Lesotho

© UNICEF video
A mother and child wait for the child to be examined at the UNICEF-supported Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence in Lesotho.

By Chris Niles

MASERU, Lesotho, 4 June 2008 — In Lesotho, a deep impoverished country with one of the world’s highest rates of HIV and AIDS, Kananelo, 7, arrives with his grandfather at the UNICEF-supported Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence.

More than a year ago, Kananelo received the diagnosis that he was living with HIV. His mother died from AIDS when he was only six, so his grandfather brings him the 30 km to the clinic.

“We treat anyone who walks through the doors. No one requires any referral whatsoever. You can walk right off the street and come in. We don’t charge for any of our services,” said the clinic’s Associate Director, Dr. Kathy Ferrer.

Preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS is crucial in a country where nearly 25 per cent of adults are infected with the disease. Of all the babies born with HIV, half die before their second birthday if they do not receive treatment.

Wealth of resources in a poor country

Without Baylor, Kananelo could have been another tragic statistic. His immune system was failing and he had an infection in his lungs. Because the family couldn’t afford to pay for treatment, he was referred to the clinic, where he was tested and put on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

© UNICEF video
Seven-year-old Kananelo is examinedby a doctor at the Baylor clinic, which provides services to all HIV/AIDS patients free of charge.

“He’s very healthy. He does not have any problems now, and he’s pretty much just like any other child,” said Dr. Lineo Thahane.

Kananelo’s grandparents, who are struggling with the challenges of raising a young child, are delighted that he has been given his life back.

“The country itself is so poor that it can really offer us not very much, but the benefits we get from this clinic are just wonderful,” said Kananelo’s grandfather, Peter Phushi Mashia.

Spreading the benefits
UNICEF is committed to making sure that the beneficial effects of Baylor Hospital spread throughout Lesotho’s health system – extending its services to rural areas, training more health care workers and building children’s HIV care into community health.

Successful treatment of children like Kananelo also spreads the word.

“We see kids growing, gaining weight and going back to school, and I think that one of the most important contributions is giving hope to the people we serve – and that spreads the word and gets other kids tested,” said Dr. Ferrer.




May 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on a UNICEF-supported clinic in Lesotho that is preventing HIV transmission from mother to child.
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