Innovative pellets ease HIV treatment among children

Ruth Kansiime's story

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye
children living with HIV, World Aids Day, HIV treatment
© UNICEF/UNI211875/Schermbrucker
30 November 2019

The Government of Uganda with support from UNICEF and other partners are implementing several interventions to save the lives of children exposed to HIV. Some of the interventions include point of care testing for early infant diagnosis of HIV that allows for same day results and prompt enrolment onto treatment for children confirmed as HIV positive as well as oral pellets for children living with HIV. In 2015, CIPLA produced an oral pellet formulation of LPV/r (pediatric HIV medicine) to be administered to small HIV positive children with food and/or breast milk disguising the bitter taste that previous medication had. This new formulation improved the likelihood of uptake of LPV/r-based formulations amongst younger children and offered the promise of better viral load suppression. It also does not require refrigeration, which previous LPV/r syrup formulations did.

[RELEASE OBTAINED] Today we share Kansiime’s story and her experience, using the pellets for her two children.

children living with HIV, World Aids Day, HIV treatment
© UNICEF/UNI211859/Schermbrucker

Kansiime Ruth (25 years) is living with HIV. 

While pregnant during her routine antenatal clinic with her first child in 2015, Ruth Kansiime was tested for HIV. She was conHIV positive.  

"When I went for antenatal care, the doctors tested me and found out I was HIV positive. They gave me medicine but I did not believe them and so I threw it in the toilet. I tested at another clinic and tested positive and still didn’t believe it.” 

“Then one day I got sick and realized I must be positive so went back to the clinic and received treatment. Today, when I visit the hospital I am surrounded by other women who have come for treatment. We are there for the same reason. This gives me courage." 

children living with HIV, World Aids Day, HIV treatment
© UNICEF/UNI211846/Schermbrucker

She gave birth to her beautiful daughter Asingwire Joanita (4years). Joanita too was tested and found HIV positive. She was enrolled into HIV care and doing well. 

"I love to walk around with my children, prepare food for them, play with my children. Joanita loves to play with my hair, touch it, make different hair styles. she loves it," Kansiime says. 

children living with HIV, World Aids Day, HIV treatment
© UNICEF/UNI211839/Schermbrucker

Joanita was born with HIV and has to take medication daily to suppress the viral load. She is bubbly, jolly, loves to play and tell stories about her little sister, in her local language. 

“I like eating rice and Irish potatoes. I love singing - my favorite song is a song called Sconto” - Joanita

children living with HIV, World Aids Day, HIV treatment
© UNICEF/UNI211847/Schermbrucker

In 2018, Kansiime gave birth to her second child, Arinda Lighton. The HIV test done for little Lighton at one and a half months confirmed she too was positive. 

"For Lighton, I tested her first at one and a half months at the regional hospital. They told me that Lighton was HIV positive. I was so disappointed. In my heart I felt why is it that all my children are positive. For me, to get the strength to pick up Lighton I was counseled by peer counselor Gloria who assured me she will grow healthily, be an important person and flourish. This helped me so much,” Kansiime says. 

children living with HIV World Aids Day

It is a few minutes to 7 am. Kansime is already up and preparing medication for the children. It is their first dose. 

Kansiime Ruth (25 years) ensures that both her children Lighton (1 year) and Joanita (4yrs) receive their pediatric HIV medicine at the same time every day. Lighton is now taking the oral pellets in place of the bitter syrup. This has helped alot in terms of getting her to take her medication and suppress her viral load. She never misses any dose. 

children living with HIV, World Aids Day, HIV treatment
© UNICEF/UNI211882/Schermbrucker
children living with HIV, World Aids Day, HIV treatment
© UNICEF/UNI211887/Schermbrucker

"When giving the tablets to Lighton, I open the capsule and pour the pellets in to the food and give it to her in the food. It is much easier to give her the pellets mixed into food so she didn’t struggle with the taste,” Kansiime narrates. 

“Counsellor Gloria told me that if I give my babies medicine they will get better. I had a problem with the first medicine because it was bitter.”

The pellets are easier for the children to take and for caregivers to administer. 

My advice to other mothers: Give your children the medication they need so they can live longer and educate others,” says Kansiime. 

children living with HIV, World Aids Day, HIV treatment
© UNICEF/UNI211879/Schermbrucker

Dr. Denis Nansera (consultant pediatrician in charge of infectious diseases clinic for children) examines Kansiime Ruth, (25 yrs) and her daughters Lighton (1 yr) and Joanita (4 yrs) at the Mbarara RRH (Regional Referral Hospital) South Western Uganda. He also writes out the prescription they require to pick up their HIV medication from the pharmacy.

Kansiime adheres to the doctor’s appointments and never misses any. 

children living with HIV, World Aids Day, HIV treatment
© UNICEF/UNI211819/Schermbrucker

Joanita ( 4yrs) carries her little sister Lighton (1 year) at their home in Mbarara, Western Uganda . Both children are living with HIV.

Everyday, Kansiime remembers the advice from counsellor Gloria. There is no day she will miss giving them medication and never misses medical appointments. Today, they are happy, healthy and thriving. 

“I am very happy because they are very healthy,”

Kansiime notes. 

While Kansiime gave birth to two children that tested positive, the Government with support from partners like UNICEF, UNAIDS, WHO is strengthening efforts to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In 2016, 8 per cent of new HIV infections in Uganda were due to mother-to child-transmission at 18 months which is fewer mothers passing on HIV to their unborn babies.