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Know your child’s status strategy enables expansion of paediatric HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment
By Barbara Bitangaro CDC Communications Specialist
Without ART, 66% of children living with HIV (CLWH) in Uganda will die before 2 years of age, and 75% will die before their 5th birth day, according to Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative Uganda (BIPAI Uganda) report dated October 21, 2009.
“Know Your Child’s HIV Status Campaign (KYCS) was one of the strategies Baylor-Uganda thought would enroll children faster into care and therefore increase the number of children with HIV living beyond five years,” says James Yesiga, a social worker with Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation Uganda.
He said before the financial support from the US President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief in 2008, Baylor-Uganda did community voluntary counseling and testing by mobilizing parents and their children through local councilors in Kampala. “In these campaigns we would only get HIV sero-positivity of 1.1% among children. However when KYCS started in June 2008 by targeting children through their parents or guardians receiving HIV care and treatment, sero-positivity for children increased to 4.1%,” Yesiga says.
“Before PEPFAR, Baylor-Uganda lacked the resources both human and logistical to carry out testing at the scale we are doing it today,’’ Yesiga says. As a result more HIV infected children have got a greater chance of survival than ever before through Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) facilitated by KYCS. Between July 2008-June 2009 KYCS campaign tested 7,636 children and 2,960 adults linking 260 HIV positive children and 240 HIV positive adults into care respectively.
KYCS targets adults already in HIV care in accredited government hospitals, hospitals giving anti-retrovirals (ARVs) to HIV-infected patients or The AIDS Support Organisations (TASO). “In the past children were not being catered for as parents were not knowledgeable about children being given HIV care,” says Yesiga,
“As the program started rolling out, staff at Baylor-Uganda noticed that parents in the community would tell other families about the service and so we would get non-targeted children. Through KYCS we also identified a number of adults who did not know their status because parents would bring their children for testing when they themselves were not tested,” Yesiga said.