Addressing journalists at a two-day HIV and TB media training workshop organised by SAfAIDS, National Aids Council in Bulawayo recently, information officer Mr Orirando Manwere, said owing to the legal requirement that children under the age of 16 years could not get tested without their parents' or guardians' consent, the children in need were not accessing the drugs.
"The drugs for children are there but there has not been a corresponding uptake for children owing to complications where they cannot decide at such an age but have to wait for their parents to make decisions for them," he said.
As a result, there are large stocks of the drugs, which have had to be exported or donated to other countries in the region where there is better uptake as there was a risk of them expiring.
"The drugs are widely available as there is support from various organisations but there is need for parents to take their children for testing and also to ensure that they get the health services available," he said.
Figures, however, could not be obtained of the quantities that were exported by the time of going to print.
According to statistics about 33 000 children are on ART against an estimated 89 000 children who need HIV and Aids treatment across the country. It has been noted that parents were afraid of disclosing their status to children resulting in some of them undergoing treatment while the children are left out.
"There are serious issues of stigma attached where parents are reluctant to get tested and when they do, they secretly take their drugs without involving children," said SAfAIDS information officer Beatrice Tonhodzayi-Ngondo.
There have, however, been success stories in Seke district where Seke Rural Hospice nurses are following up on all children in the area and advocating for paediatric health.
Currently they have followed up on at least 250 children from the villages and providing ART services and support to parents and guardians.
The support group is following up children who are not included on the ART programme but who really need the service and advising their parents and guardians on what they should do.
Source: The Herald (Harare, Zimbabwe)