29 January 2013

South Africa: HSRC Releases Guidelines for Testing Children for HIV

Pretoria — The Human Science and Research Council (HSRC) has designed a set of guidelines and training tools for dealing with the legal and ethical issues around counseling and testing children for HIV.

Counselors, health practitioners, non-government organisations and people providing HIV treatment and counseling will now have a clear set of rules when dealing with these sensitive situations.

"These guidelines will now provide guidance that was not [previously] available. Health practitioners come across different scenarios. Nurses, NGO, schools councilors will be able to use the tools they can be used across the board," explained Dr Heidi van Rooyen, who was the project team leader and Research Director at the HSRC during the launch of the tools.

The guidelines consist of four manuals and a video that give counselors guidelines on implementation, legal and ethical counseling issues as well as a manual for the practitioner and trainer dealing with providing HIV counseling and testing for children.

Lucia Thomas a Professional Nurse working for Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Coronationville said she had experienced difficulty in many cases relating to the testing of children in her line of duty because of the lack of legal clarity on issues relating to providing HIV counseling and testing children.

"I found the tools very useful and reader friendly. There was a lot of confusion, especially on the legal front when it comes to testing a child for HIV. As health practitioners we have been waiting for something of this kind," said Thomas, who works in the antiretroviral clinic of the hospital.

Van Rooyen said the tools describe what practitioners can do to ensure that the HIV testing of children takes place in a way that protects and promotes their rights and is conducted in their best interests.

She said it was important that parents knew the status of their children because they would be motivated to get their kids on treatment.

The HSRC through the SA National AIDS Council was commissioned to provide technical support to the National Department of Health to ensure implementation of the goals for voluntary counseling and testing.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided the funding for this initiative.

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