By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] –There are approximately 250 children across Guyana living with HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), so said Programme Manager of the National Aids Program Secretariat (NAPS), Dr. Shanti Singh.
But according to Dr. Singh, these numbers are good, compared to the prevalence recorded less than a decade ago.
Speaking exclusively to iNews, the Medical Doctor said the prevention of mother to child transmission program has also recorded success with only three babies being born HIV positive last year (2013).
She said while the standards that define pediatrics vary, NAPS tag all persons below the age of 15 as pediatrics for the purpose of evaluation, reporting and monitoring.
Dr Singh, who is knowledgeable in both public health and clinical medicine, told iNews that mother to child transmission has been declining with the affected anti natal population now pegged at one percent; down from over seven percent in the early 1990’s.
She attested also to a decline in mothers who are tested HIV positive; adding that the evolution in treatment regiments must be given credit for the fewer babies being born with HIV.
She explained that women who are diagnosed with HIV while pregnant are not taken off treatment after delivering, as was the case, but are allowed to continue treatment which proves to be helpful, should they get pregnant again.
Dr. Singh said that while the number of persons born with HIV remains small, so does the population of children who contract the virus after birth.
Meanwhile, Dr. Singh explained that the Secretariat is working with the Ministry of Education to ensure that the population of infected children are not robbed of an education, particularly as a result of stigma and discrimination.
She recalled having to visit a school once to talk to teachers and students because a child was being discriminated against; adding that currently NAPS is working with UNAIDS to set up a mechanism where persons who are discriminated against, when seeking social services, can seek redress.
Dr Singh could not attest to any case where children were deliberately kept from schooling or seeking medical treatment by parents because of an HIV positive status.
For the first time Guyana’s Cabinet approved US$91,721 for the procurement of ARVs for the pediatric population.
To this end, Dr. Singh believes the money for children ARVs and care is adequate. She explained that this was part of the transition from donor funded projects to government funded which should be fully complete by 2017.
Meanwhile, Dr Singh has expressed worry over the global picture, which shows significant infected adolescents dying.
She said her Secretariat will start looking at it locally to see what needs to be done in terms of programming. Dr Singh also appealed to the citizenry to ensure that this vulnerable section of the population is protected, mainly from sexual abuse.