A 2009 HIV/AIDS Demographic Impact Study by the National Statistics Institute (with the Portuguese acronym INE), found that about 150,000 children between 0 and 14 were living with the virus, but only 10,477 were on medication.  

ARV treatment for children is free in Mozambique and supposed to be administered to all children whose CD4 count (which measures the strength of the immune system) is below 200.  

Falling through the cracks

The reality is very different. Children in rural areas are often neglected and most of those on treatment are in Maputo Province, where the capital is located. In 2008 more than 21,000 children between 0 and 15 years of age died from AIDS-related illnesses.  

“Usually those parents who do not follow their children’s treatment … [cannot afford] transportation, because in many cases the health centres and day hospitals are located very far from the patients’ homes,” said Roberto Bernardi, head of health and nutrition at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Mozambique.  

The INE study revealed that 85 children were infected via vertical transmission every day, and there were some 150,000 HIV-positive pregnant women at the time of the survey.  

“The HIV/AIDS pandemic has had a destructive effect on the lives of Mozambican children and youths, but this effect is still widely underestimated,” said Leila Pakkala, the UNICEF representative in Mozambique.  

“It is imperative for us to reinforce our response, not only in order to minimize its expansion, but also to reduce the negative impact AIDS has brought to an entire generation of children.”  

UNICEF has developed a programme that provides nutritional, psychological and social support, as well as medical care, to infected children. “In this programme we accompany children undergoing antiretroviral treatment and going for their monthly checkups, and we make sure that they are really taking their medication,” said Bernardi.  

The children’s agency is appealing to the government and other AIDS organizations in Mozambique to scale up their interventions in paediatric treatment and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus.  

With a nationwide prevalence rate of 16 percent, it is estimated that 347,000 children will see both their parents die from an AIDS-related illness by the end of 2009.  

This feature is used with permission from IRIN/PlusNews  –  www.plusnews.org


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