RMT Impacts Lives of Children Living with HIV in Murewa, Zimbabwe

Introduction

Rozaria Memorial Trust project " Supporting Children Living with HIV in Murewa with Access to Education and Treatment" has made great impact for children living with HIV in Murewa Zimbabwe, a rural communities face extreme challenges to access treatment, education, and nutrition. Many such children live in extreme poverty, enduring social stigma and discrimination. The project directly supported almost 200 children living with HIV and AIDS, and over 2000 young people of school going age in 30 villages within the district. Continue reading

Rozaria Memorial Trust Support “Getting to Zero 2011-2015″ UNAIDS Strategy.

The launching of Getting to Zero 2011-2015 UNAIDS Strategy has come in time when the Global economic support for HIV responses is taking major decline because of a number of competing issues that include macro-economic challenges, increase in natural disasters, continued threat being posed by other communicable diseases among many other issues. Rozaria Memorial Trust believes "The Getting to Zero Strategy" can be achievable with the renewed positive commitment by all the stakeholders in the fight against HIV especially in the area of resource allocation in the most affected areas that include countries like Zimbabwe.

UNAIDS Getting to Zero Strategic Plan has clearly indicated that it is important that new HIV infections be stopped. It recognised the need to achieve a transition that will see fewer people newly infected than are newly placed on treatment. Doing so will require decisive action guided by a groundbreaking vision: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, zero AIDS-related deaths

Rozaria Memorial Trust will support and contribute towards this commitment through strengthening and supporting of community responses that sort to achieve the following:-

o        Elimination of vertical transmission of HIV and reduction of AIDS-related maternal mortality in the rural communities.

o        Improved access to antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV who are eligible for treatment especially for children and women. People Living with HIV and AIDS and affected households receive community support on care and support services.

o        Addressing of HIV-specific needs of women and girls in all national HIV responses. RMT calls for elimination of gender-based violence.

Rozaria Memorial Trust acknowledge that, beyond its health impact, the HIV responses should give an opportunity to strengthen the social framework, improve social justice and support systems that deliver critical services for the most vulnerable members of the communities especially women and children in the rural communities.

Getting to Zero Strategy for 2011-2015 has to promote for greater community involvement in health services to ensure effective contribution and sustainable programs that take into different social and cultural context that influence HIV responses. This will help in better understanding of community needs and constraints in the fight against HIV. Failure to involve the community may not only result in a failed intervention, but may also produce unforeseen and possibly adverse effects. In addition, community involvement can positively affect community norms and contextual factors to create an environment favourable to attainment of Getting to Zero by 2015 as stated in the UNAIDS Blueprint. Through its community work, RMT has discovered that non-community involvement will seize the opportunity to effect positive change in the fight against HIV.

Zimbabwe remains one of the hardest hit countries by the HIV and AIDS pandemic with estimated population of 1, 4 million living with the pandemic. The HIV prevalence currently stands at 13, 7 % in Murewa, Zimbabwe. Rozaria Memorial Trust is committed to elimination of new infections amongst children and enhanced access to treatment for people living with HIV.

Contact: Kudakwashe Dizha, Coordinator, Rozaria Memorial Trust

Early HIV Diagnosis Vital for Children Living with HIV

Early HIV Diagnosis Vital for Children Living with HIV

Tremendous progress has been made over the past few years in diagnosing and treatment of children living with HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe. Despite this positive development, there is a bigger number of infants and children whose HIV status is not known especially in the rural communities resulting in them failing to be administered on life serving Anti-retroviral Drugs on time. It is estimated that 150 000 children aged between 0-14 years are living with HIV in Zimbabwe.

The Story of Sarah (not real name) of Masango Village, Murewa, Zimbabwe

Sarah is a six (6) year old girl from Masango Village in Murewa. She lives with her single mother who is involved in the cross boarder business for survival. With Sarah health continuing to decline and being symptomatic to HIV, she was referred to RMT by a relative after realising the hidden fear of the mother in seeking for HIV testing for the child .Some of the established reasons that inhibited testing for Sarah included the following:

  • The mother's unpreparedness to take the child for an HIV test for fear that she will face prejudice once diagnosed.
  • The mother does not know her HIV status thereby fearful of discovering that the child is infected which would likely mean that she is infected also.

 Colleta, RMT Programme Officer discussed with the mother on the health situation of the child and indicated to her the importance of HIV testing for Sarah. The mother agreed to visit Murewa General Hospital for HIV testing.

Sarah tested HIV positive with a CD 4 count of 90 which indicated that the child has suffered a severe Immuno-suppression as result of HIV. RMT catered for the medical fees for the child and continued providing psycho-social support for the mother to enable her to fully comprehend issues of paedriatic care and treatment before the child was administered on Anti-Retroviral Therapy. Through RMT school fees support system, Sandra has been enrolled for grade zero (pre-school) at Hurungwe Early Childhood Development Centre.

 After three weeks of commencement of ART, Sarah has been hospitalised at Murewa Hospital with some health complications which are usually common in HIV children with severe immunodeficiency. This will derail and slow down her road to recovery. The mother is continuously in tears, not sure whether her child would recover from the illness but for Sarah even though in pain and her tender age; she is looking forward to be discharged from the hospital so that she can be able to go to school once again.

Sarah’s story is one of the many stories of Children Living with HIV in different communities where late HIV diagnosis and initiation on ART has negatively impacted on the lives of children living with HIV. These calls for the following:

  • channelling resources by government and other bilateral partners in the rural health facilities for early infant testing and HIV treatment
  • Raise awareness at family and community levels through advocacy and social mobilization on importance of early HIV diagnosis and treatment in children
  • Strengthening of Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission thereby completely eradicating chances of vertical transmission.
  • Equitable, affordable and comprehensive HIV services for children especially in the resource constraint communities.

Although there is a growing recognition that stepping up efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission would decrease the need for paedriatic treatment, it is likely that HIV will continue to infect many thousand of children in Zimbabwe for years to come. Given this situation, testing and treatment facilities for children need to be improved and made widely available in the rural health facilities. This will enhance the lives of children living with HIV through access to treatment and in the process helping to reach the goal towards Universal Access on ART.

Rozaria Memorial Trust acknowledges that achievement in this regard would significantly increase the number of lives that can be saved by early initiation of treatment for HIV positive infants and children.

By Kudakwashe Dizha, RMT Coordinator.