Zimbabwe: Clinic Card Crucial to Health

All Africa | February 7, 2012

February 7, 2012

Zimbabwe’s The Herald published this article which speaks about the importance of clinic cards in treating HIV-positive children. It refers to a publication produced by EGPAF, entitled “From the Ground Up,” which talks about how the clinic card benefits mothers and their infected children. The article stresses the importance of mothers always traveling with their clinic cards if they and their children are receiving HIV treatment, so that doctors can provide them with the right treatment wherever they are.

A Zambian nurse told her brothers on the night she died to return a 21-year-old boy that she had stolen from a mother in Zimbabwe at birth. The mother from Chiweshe was reunited with her son after two decades because she had failed to travel with her clinic card to Harare.

She felt labour pains when she was waiting for her husband to finish work in Msasa. The nurses at the Family Health Clinic in Highfield refused to admit her without the card. Media reports say that the nurse who received her twins at Harare Central Hospital took the boy to Mberengwa and told her husband that she had given birth. The retired soldier died believing the child to be his.

The nurse went with the lad to Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo on transfer and later to her home in Zambia when her health was failing.

"She made me to work hard in the fields all the time," the post-Form 2 dropout told his parents in the presence of his twin sister. "That told me that she couldn't be my mother." The mother wouldn't have missed her child for such a long time if she had travelled with her card.

Scientists encourage mothers to travel with their clinic cards if they and their children are receiving treatment for HIV infections. This would enable doctors wherever they would have travelled to give them the right treatment.

The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in Zimbabwe gave this information to the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric Aids Foundation in Washington. The foundation has included in its three books on global efforts to tame the pandemic the literature from Zimbabwe showing how the card benefits mothers and their children.

Those whose tests have come out negative should also travel with their cards, the scientists say. Zimbabwe is one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa with a high rate of infection. The trend, though, is coming down.

The people who wrote the chapter on the use of cards in Zimbabwe are Agnes Mahomva, Rufaro Madzima and Anna Miller in conjunction with the ministry. The editors of Establishing Framework for Success are foundation vice president Richard G Marlink and senior technical editor Sara J Teitelman.

The editions enable stakeholders to share the information on the pandemic which has been gathered over 20 years. HIV and Aids was reported in 1981 for the first time.

The people who stand to benefit from research can hear from hundreds talented professionals on the frontline whose views are included in the books. The method by which the content was developed is characterised by a high level of collaboration.

The work from more than 320 experts on care and treatment has been included in the volumes. Scientists defined care as: "All approaches that hold the potential to enhance the health and well-being of people living with and affected by HIV." The editors hope that the editions will significantly contribute to solving the present crisis. The foundation works hand in hand with more than 140 respected health institutions around the world. The doctors say that countries facing financial woes in caring for the infected should encourage mothers to travel with their cards when they leave home with their children.

In Zimbabwe the card has a long history which is associated with the health delivery system. It serves as a tool for simple communication in treating the children who are less than five years old. "The card," doctors say, "creates a link between parents and healthcare workers during the early years which are critical in the growth of the child. The mother will be going with the child to the clinic for regular checkups.

"The inclusion of information on HIV on the card is crucial for providing drugs and other related support for the child at the right time and in correct quantities. It is critical to ensure that cards are maintained for all mothers and children. This applies to those who are negative as well."

"The issues to do with children," say doctors, "can't be dealt with successfully in isolation from their mothers, fathers and siblings. Addressing HIV as a family disease remains an enormous challenge." Aids Foundation estimates for 2006 are that about 40 000 children acquire HIV infection each year in Zimbabwe.

The youngest children are at the greatest risk for rapid disease progression and death. The rate of mortality in children can be reduced through early and appropriate care. The challenge is to ensure support for children and their mothers following delivery. Aids Foundation director Pamela W Barnes says a lot more needs to be done to support the people who are living with HIV and Aids. The historical account of the pandemic is disturbing.

In 2007 about 33 million people were living with HIV compared with 29 million in 2001. At the end of that year 2,7 million people including 370 000 children had been newly infected. About 2 million had died.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region in the world with two thirds of all people living with HIV. Most of them are women. Thirty four percent of infected women in the world had received medicine by 2007 to prevent transmission to their children. This was an increase of 14 percent from 2005 which came from low-and-middle income countries.

The foundation had provided more than 6,6 million women with services by 2008 to prevent the mother-to-child transmission. The foundation has specialised in caring and the treatment of women and children. The authors highlight their plight in the three books.

The chapters in the three volumes represent different views from the workforce to the human rights activists which are crucial to the success of relevant programmes. An official of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria says that the prevention of infections lags behind the strides in finding alternative treatment. "We must always strive for highest possible standard of care," said director Michel Kazatchkine.

"The pandemic represents a formidable challenge that we will not conquer for some time."