Uganda: A Campaign to Know Your Child’s HIV Status

By Sanyu Nkiinzi Kagwa | March 29, 2012

Some of the children that turned up for the KYCS campaign in Isingiro district.

EGPAF

Knowing one’s HIV status is an important first step for everyone to take in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

For infants and young children, it’s an urgent matter of life and death. Without early diagnosis and immediate treatment, only about half of children with HIV will survive to their second birthdays.

However, children are dependent on a parent or an adult caregiver to get tested for HIV, and there is a still a large gap between the number of children infected, and those who are diagnosed and receiving care and treatment.

In Uganda, the Ministry of Health has designed the “Know Your Child’s Status Campaign” (KYCS) – specifically aimed at mobilizing HIV-positive adults to bring children in their care for mass HIV testing on a specific day.

If found HIV-positive, these children are immediately enrolled into HIV/AIDS care and treatment.

In Southwest Uganda, the Foundation’s USAID-funded STAR-SW program estimates that only about 6.7% of HIV clients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) are children, and that children represent 6.2% of all clients receiving HIV care in the region.

In response to these findings, the Foundation developed strategic approaches focusing on community mobilization to increase the use of pediatric HIV/AIDS care and treatment services. The program integrated KYCS campaigns into activities at health facilities, targeting children of HIV-infected adult clients already in care.

In a two-day KYCS campaign conducted in Nshungyezi Health Center III in Isingiro district, 1,019 people were tested for HIV – of which 945 were children below 18 years.

There were 11 HIV-positive children identified, who were then linked to the proper care. HIV-exposed infants were given an antiretroviral drug to guard against HIV-infection, and had blood samples taken to determine their HIV status.

Caretakers were counseled on how to ensure drug adherence, and how to care for HIV-positive and HIV-exposed children.

The good turn-out for the campaign can be attributed to the involvement of Village Health Teams (VHTs) and people living with HIV/AIDS (PHAs) in mobilization of the community. The district leadership was also very involved in preparation for this event, with the organizing committee comprised of the District Health Educator, the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) focal person, and the district lab focal person.

In addition, the number of health staff available for the two days contributed to the success of the event, with 11 lab technicians and assistants, 11 expert peer clients, and 10 counselors involved in the exercise.

With the commitment of so many adults, we were able to show that children must be a priority in fighting HIV, and ultimately creating an AIDS-free generation.

Sanyu Nkiinzi Kagwa is the Foundation’s Communications & Outreach Officer, based in Uganda.