Children born with HIV in Rwanda are usually kept by their parents from knowing their HIV status, which makes it difficult for them to receive timely treatment, a survey has shown.

The Rwanda Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, a local umbrella organization, revealed that at a meeting in the capital Kigali on care for HIV-infected children, attended by officials from UNAIDS and the Rwanda Biomedical Center.
A 25-year-old girl born with HIV, testified that at the meeting.

Orphaned at 9 years, the parents died before telling her of her status.

“I was sickly but never imagined it was HIV until I was 15 years old. Nurses tested me after having persistent cough. I felt depression after testing positive,” the girl said.

She is now on antiretroviral drugs but said she faced discrimination from her peers.

Treatment coverage for children in Rwanda stands at 64 percent while 36 percent of estimated HIV positive children are not aware of their status when they are registered for treatment, according to the findings.

According to UNAIDS’ 2014 data, number of people living with HIV stands at 210,000 in Rwanda, among which 22,000 are children aged 0 to 14.

Among 773 children who were found HIV positive last year, only 559 received treatment, official statistics show.
The findings noted that there was lack of coordination between care givers and communities, which made it hard to follow up children tested HIV positive.

The organization at the meeting called for efforts to encourage HIV testing for all mothers with unknown HIV status seeking children vaccination.

Sibongile Dludlu, UNAIDS representative in Rwanda, said despite the progress made in the fight against AIDS, there was still need for more community mobilization and coordination.

Globally 3.2 million children under age 15 live with HIV, of whom 91 percent come from Sub-Saharan Africa.
Untreated, about one third of global HIV children die by their first birthday but treatment before the 12th week of life can reduces their mortality by 75 percent, according to UNAIDS. Enditem


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