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Friday, July 19, 2024
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35% of children with HIV unaware of their status

Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

WHILE Zimbabwe has done well in reaching the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) targets of ending AIDS by 2025 in the adult population, there seems to be a huge gap when it comes to children in the wake of revelations that 35 percent of them are not aware of their status.

With 35 percent of children who are HIV positive not aware of their status and the viral load for 14 percent of those on treatment not suppressed, Zimbabwe has scaled up its HIV preventive and treatment measures to ensure children also reach the UNAIDS targets of ending AIDS by 2025.

National AIDS Council Chief Executive Officer, Dr Bernard Madzima confirmed that they have upscaled awareness campaigns in the face of the worrying trend.

“Zimbabwe is one of the 12 countries with a high burden of HIV in children and in February this year, the honourable Vice President was part of the 12 countries which made a commitment which is called a global alliance to end HIV in children by 2030, so as Zimbabwe we have made that commitment politically at the highest level and now the thrust is to implement the framework where we are scaling up all the preventive measures and the treatment measures to end HIV in children.

“One of the things to do is to identify all women who are pregnant and make sure that they are tested very early in the pregnancy and if positive they are put on treatment so that they don’t have children who are HIV positive,” said Dr Madzima.

HIV activist, Luckmore Pamhidzai, who was born with the virus, reckons there is a need to strengthen the country’s Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission (EMTCT) programmes for the country to meet the UN target.

“We need to strengthen our EMTCT programme we have remembered the main gap when it comes to paediatric HIV is on ART coverage I think we are around 70 percent whereas our target is 95 so we are still behind, we need to strengthen our PMTCT and EMTCT and also, we need to increase our access to ART and also in terms of viral load suppression we need to make sure that we increase the machines for viral load testing in rural areas as well as nutritional support,” he said.

Some of the key areas the country is working on to reach the targets among children include early testing, optimised treatment as well as care for children and adolescents living with HIV.

There are also efforts to close the treatment gap and optimise the continuity of treatment for pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV.

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