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Govt reaches out to HIV positive children

by Staff reporter
24 Feb 2022 at 07:54hrs | Views
Government is reaching out to children living with HIV to take advantage of the available treatment as part of accelerated efforts to achieve an HIV free generation, Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga has said.

He was speaking in Harare yesterday when he chaired the first quarter 2022 National Validation Committee meeting on the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

Despite efforts that have won plaudits from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in controlling HIV in the country, Vice President Chiwenga said the Government was concerned that 27 percent of positive children were not on treatment.

"Government has noted with concern that Anti-retroviral treatment coverage for children is lagging behind coverage for adults.

"In 2020, 94 percent of adults living with HIV were on Anti-retroviral Treatment compared to 73 percent of children living with HIV.

"I urge us all to be innovative in finding the missing children living with HIV. Let us find them and initiate them on treatment," said Dr Chiwenga.

He said child friendly ARV formulations were now available and already being given to children living with HIV.

Dr Chiwenga noted the importance of building the capacity of health care workers to offer quality services.

"In the last quarter of 2021, we managed to conduct training on the Integrated Mother to Child Transmission package for all provinces including training of the uniformed forces.

"In the fourth quarter of 2021, we managed to work with all key stakeholders to review and update the mother-baby pair register to ensure all key data points are captured.

"This register will be incorporated into the Electronic Health Record (EHR), and presents an opportunity to accurately report data on mother-baby pairs throughout the continuum of care including determination of final HIV status at the end of breastfeeding."

Zimbabwe is pushing towards attainment of best international practices and Dr Chiwenga acknowledged that the targets for the national validation committee they had set were ambitious and efforts would be made to attain them.

"This calls for innovations and concerted effort by all of us to do the extraordinary to continue to provide essential health care services for our women and their children and indeed, for the male partners of pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV.

"As the National Validation Committee, let us continuously monitor progress towards elimination ensuring that we leave no one behind, every corner of Zimbabwe must be served," said Dr Chiwenga.

He reiterated the commitment of the government in supporting the call to end AIDS in children by 2030, and acknowledged the efforts of the National Validation Committee and all stakeholders for soldiering on in the midst of these challenging times.

"We should endeavour to safeguard the gains the nation has achieved on the path to elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV and syphilis."

He noted an additional conventional testing platform for early infant diagnosis at Gweru Provincial hospital which is now in place and is complementing testing at the existing laboratories.

"As the National Validation Committee, we have been working tirelessly to guide and monitor our country's progress towards attaining the Gold Tier.

"I am convinced that we are all energised to reach these ambitious targets and to end AIDS among children by 2030," said VP Chiwenga.

He said "in a bid to meet the process criteria, it is expected that at least 95 percent of pregnant women will book for antenatal care, and that at least 95 percent of them will be tested for HIV and syphilis.

"At least 95 percent of HIV positive pregnant women will be initiated on Anti-retroviral therapy for their own health as well as to prevent vertical transmission to their children. Similarly, 95 percent or more of pregnant women who test positive for syphilis will receive Benzathine Penicillin for treatment to prevent congenital syphilis."

Dr Angela Mushavi, the national PMTCT and Paediatric HIV care and treatment coordinator in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, also noted a worrying occurrence where pregnant women test negative and later test positive during the same pregnancy.

Source - The Herald
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