The National, Thursday October 31st, 2013
By ELIAS LARI
TWENTY-five children in Western Highlands born to parents living with HIV/AIDS viruses have tested negative after receiving two years of treatment after birth.
The two-year-old children were presented certificates of discharge at the pediatrics HIV services, Mt Hagen Provincial Hospital chapel, yesterday.
These children were born to parents living with HIV/AIDS and on anti-retroviral (ART) drugs.
It was unusual that the children were not infected through breast feed or from birth, an official said.
Provincial HIV services coordinator Petrus Kombea said under the Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority (WHPHA) in collaboration with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) they had managed to prevent infection.
Kombea said three major programmes were involved in the prevention – ART services, prevention of parent to child transmission (PPTCT) and pediatrics HIV services.
“These are the three areas that have saved an innocent child from being infected through transmission from their mothers,” he said.
“These children have undergone three tests in order to prove and confirm them that they are negative.”
Kombea said the first test was straight after birth.
The second followed after 18 months and the final after two years.
He said the children were normal after going through several tests as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
It showed that Western Highlands and Jiwaka were improving in treating the deadly virus.
“When a mother is confirmed to be infected with HIV/AIDS, she is well taken care of with correct counselling and treatment to prevent her from passing the virus to her baby.
Kombea said 132 babies had died in the past.
Currently, more than 500 babies are registered and 300 are confirmed positive.
He said this meant that even people living with HIV/AIDS could start a family.
“This programme is a big help and my encouragement to you is not to feel discouraged from discrimination because you can still enjoy life,” Kombea said.
These children now have a right to go to school and live a happy and a healthy life, he said.
Highlands region chief pediatrician Dr Magdalynn Kaupa said the programme was to reduce the death rate.
She said through the CHAI and other support, they had managed to roll out the programme.
“It is an achievement and I want us to continue to maintain and protect our children,” Kaupa said.
She said everyone had to take the initiative and look after their children.
“I need your support and you need mine, so that together we can create a teamwork,” Kaupa said.
“This is a big achievement and I commend each and every one of you for your cooperation,” Kaupa said.