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Explaining ARV treatment to children is hard

Author: Tandeka Hlongwane- Health-e News
12 August 2013

Parents find it difficult to tell children that they are HIV-positive and explain to them the antiretroviral treatment they must take to remain healthy, a study has found.

The survey, done by AIDS Training Information and Counselling Centre (ATICC) based at the Walter Sisulu University in Lusikisiki, one of the reasons is because there is no bond between parents and children which would allow the children to feel free to talk to their parents. Another reason might be that the stigma surrounding HIV/Aids means that parents might want to protect their children.

This emerged at an HIV/Aids training programme for HIV/Aids workers from government and non-governmental organisations, which was organised by the Ingquza Hill Municipality in Lusikisiki. Participants were taught about key issues that needed to be addressed by parents before they could disclose a child’s HIV status to him or her.

HIV/Aids counsellor Thina Mabona, when asked when the right time was to tell children that they were on lifelong treatment, said: “Parents must tell their children because they have a right to know, but there is no specific age at which a child must be told. But the parents themselves must be prepared for the discussion.”

Since a Constitutional Court ruling in 2009 that all HIV-positive pregnant mothers must be given Nevirapine to reduce the risk of passing HIV to their new borns, the health deprtment has managed to expand the package.

According to health department statistics, the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme has been extremely successful in reducing the number of babies born with HIV. The statistics show that there are about 26 children on antiretrovirals in the Ingquza Hill sub-district.

Care givers and counsellors have identified some major problem in adminstering ARVs to children. Zodwa Mlonzi a care-giver from Good Hope location told OurHealth: “Both the parent and the child has to walk a long distance to reach the clinic. Antiretrovirals need to be kept in the refridgerator to maintain cool temperature, and in areas without electricity, families have to store treatment in a cool place.”

HIV/Aids adherence counsellor Sikhokele Mngoma said: “To sustain the programme, advocacy groups and adherence counsellors need to support the treatment programme in order to keep more women and children in care. And at the same time it is very difficult to keep children in treatment because adherence and disclosure are very hard with children.”

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