8 April 2008

Uganda: Aids Policy Ignores Children - Study

Photo: Aubrey Graham/IRIN
Stolen childhood: Taking care of the household.

Kampala — POLICIES on HIV/AIDS overlook younger children, a new study has revealed. The study on the impact of HIV/AIDS on early childhood development and the implications to the Ugandan economy was released on Wednesday.

It calls for an increase in policies and programmes to address children under eight years.

"With the exception of the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission, children under eight years tend to be ignored in comparison to older children and youth.

"Caring for HIV-infected and affected children should be a holistic affair. The body, mind, and the spirit must be looked at to ensure the growth and development of these children," the study recommended.

It also called for increased access to anti-retroviral treatment for children. Access to the treatment reduces mortality, averting 13,000 new infections annually. This increases survival rates by 80% or more.

The survival rate of HIV-positive children is worrying, the study noted. Half of the HIV-positive infants die before celebrating their first birthday, while their rest die before the fifth birthday.

The HIV prevalence rate of children whose mothers have died stands at 4%. Dr. Sarah Ssewanyana, the executive director of the Economic Policy Research Centre, said: "While understanding the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS is important, comprehensive data to allow rigorous economic analysis remains scanty.

"Where it exists, as with the National Sero-survey, researchers are denied access to it."

The study was funded by the African Capacity Building Foundation and the Economic Policy Research Centre, Makerere University.

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