By Naomi Wenambo
MORE than 300 children living with HIV/AIDS in the earthquake-affected areas cannot access anti-retroviral treatment drugs due to tribal fighting, United Nations AIDS consultant Dr Shinsuke Miyano says.
Before the earthquake, 7000 people living with HIV/AIDS were receiving treatment from the 39 clinics in four provinces. It included 300 children.
It is estimated that about 9800 people with HIV/AIDS live in four provinces – Hela, Southern Highlands, Enga and Western.
“Those below the age of 15 are considered children and above are adults,” Dr Shinsuke said.
“For the younger children below five years, they got the virus from their mother during childbirth or breastfeeding.
“Some children contacted HIV by abuse, gender-based violence and rape.”
The recent earthquake damaged five ART (anti-retroviral treatment) clinics serving more than 100 patients.
“We are concerned about the people. A month is too long to live without the drug,” he said.
“It will surely have a big effect on their wellbeing.
“They can become resistant to ART or other sickness can affect and kill them.
“If they stay for long and become resistant, then they will have to change to a different ART drug which will be expensive.
“Currently in the country, we do not have some of these drugs.
“Individuals do not want to get tested and know their status because of the fear of discrimination and stigma. But they can live a normal life with the help of the ART drugs, only if they take it faithfully every day. We cannot give it to them because of the tribal fights that’s been going on after the earthquake.”
By Naomi Wenambo