Counseling HIV Positive Children Thony Task – Medics

Delivery of HIV counseling and testing services for children remains a thorny task for health workers in parts of western Uganda, medical personnel have indicated.

Recent estimates by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) indicate that about 130,000 children aged 0 to 14 years are living with HIV in Uganda.

But despite the number, there have been minimal provision for counseling and testing services for children and infants.

Kabarole district launched the programme last but health personnel argue that the job is an uphill task for many health workers and caretakers. The district health department estimates that there are more than 500 children living with HIV-AIDS.

Sarah Kansiime, a health worker at Rwimi Health Centre III says that majority of the health workers are not well trained to handle HIV-infected children and have never attended any formal training in counseling. They also lack adequate knowledge about pediatric HIV care, Kansiime adds.

She explains that health centres also lacks information and education materials and reference guidelines on HIV counseling and care for children.

Similarly, George Musinguzi, a health worker at Kibito Health Centre IV observes that while the National Policy Guidelines for HIV counseling and testing emphasize that children should be accompanied by parents or guardians, children report to health centers unaccompanied. He adds that such children are also unable to express themselves making the process difficult.

Musinguzi adds that the problem is compounded by the inadequacy of health workers in the facilities since the limited health workers consider counseling as an added responsibility.

David Kamaragi, a caretaker of a 12 year old girl infected with HIV says that he finds it difficult to visit health facilities regularly for counseling due to lack of money for transport. Kamaragi says that the counselors should ideally consider home based services for people living with HIV.

Wilber Baguma, a parent says that there is a need by the Ministry of Health to train health workers in child counseling skills. Baguma adds that some health facilities lack a child-friendly environment in which children could feel free to express themselves.