IRIN News Examines Efforts To Provide Antiretroviral Treatment for Children in MozambiqueIRIN News on Monday examined efforts by health workers in Mozambique to expand antiretroviral treatment access to children in the country. UNICEF estimates that 5% of eligible children, or about 4,000, have access to antiretrovirals in Mozambique, compared with 20% of eligible adults. According to IRIN, the "discrepancy" between adults and children "reflects the greater vulnerability of children" to HIV/AIDS.
Most of the country's health infrastructure is confined to Maputo, the capital, which makes it difficult to reach children who live in rural areas. In addition, few medical workers "have the training or confidence" to treat HIV-positive children, which requires specialized medical knowledge and supplies, including antiretroviral syrups and dry-blood testing materials, IRIN reports. One of the "most frustrating" obstacles to expanding treatment access to children is that a large number of pregnant woman who register at HIV/AIDS clinic often do not return after their infants are born, according to some doctors, IRIN reports. Ninety-five percent of pregnant women who visit the Zambezia province's HIV/AIDS clinic do not return after their infants are born. About 300 children out of the four million people living with HIV/AIDS in the province have access to antiretroviral treatment.
Public health officials say stigma associated with HIV/AIDS is another reason why many women refuse to bring their children in for treatment. Mothers also have "practical considerations," including taking time away from growing food or daily chores, when deciding to visit clinics. Therefore, women often wait until their children become seriously ill to bring them in for treatment. UNICEF health and nutrition specialist Christiane Rudert said Mozambique's high child mortality rate -- 152 infants per 1,000 live births are not expected to live past age five -- have prompted some mothers to view an HIV-positive child as a "lost cause." Rudert said, "That child is not worth the time and energy and resources to go ... to the clinic every month because [the mother] has five other children at home and her field to take care of." According to IRIN, time ultimately might be the "crucial factor" in expanding antiretroviral access to children. Doctors say once more people begin to see the benefits of the treatment, it will be "deemed as worthwhile," IRIN reports (IRIN News, 6/4). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.