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Infant deaths worry stakeholders

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By Richard Chirombo:

Late diagnosis of HIV has been identified as one of the leading causes of death among infants in the country, prompting Chipembere Community Development Organisation (CCDO) to embark on a paediatric HIV and Aids sensitisation campaign.

According to The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids, approximately 20 percent of HIV-infected infants die without getting treatment within three months of birth, 50 percent die before reaching their second birthday while 75 percent die by the time they reach five years.

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CCDO Technical Assistant, Shora Kauluka, said such cases are also manifesting in Malawi, leading to the loss of “precious lives”.

“In the areas we are working, especially in the Southern Region, most children whose parents are HIV positive are not on treatment. This is because, in most cases, the parents themselves do not know their HIV sero-status.

“As a result, HIV infection is often rapidly progressive and fatal. Therefore, promoting identification, and continuum care, of infants and young children of HIV positive parents, would reduce the numbers of infants who go undiagnosed or who are diagnosed too late for successful care and treatment,” he said.

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The organisation has been implementing Accelerating Children`s HIV/Aids Treatment Project designed to identify HIV-infected children in the Southern Region and link them to care and treatment in health facilities in Malawi.

“We want to reduce cases of mortality among HIV-infected infants by as much as 75 percent. Considering that most of those living with HIV are also vulnerable to malnutrition, we introduced income-generating activities such as installation of solar-energy boreholes for irrigation farming and poultry production,” he said.

Health Minister Atupele Muluzi recently said Malawi has made progress in stemming cases of HIV infection among children.

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