Rising cases of paediatric HIV in Masaka raise concerns

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Rising cases of paediatric HIV in Masaka raise concerns
The Masaka hospital director, Dr.James Elima

The Greater Masaka region has witnessed a troubling increase in the number of children born with HIV, with health officials reporting an estimated three to five paediatric cases diagnosed every week.

This concerning trend has prompted calls for urgent action to address the root causes and prevent further transmission of the virus to newborns.

According to Dr James Elima, the Masaka regional hospital director, the surge in pediatric HIV cases can be attributed to several factors, including a lack of maternal attendance at specialist check-ups and delayed initiation of treatment.

"Mothers who neglect to seek specialized care during pregnancy and fail to start treatment early are inadvertently putting their children at risk of acquiring the virus," Dr Elima said.

One significant finding highlighted by Dr Elima is the prevalence of mothers giving birth in foster homes locally known as 'Bamulerwa' who lack the necessary skills to undergo HIV testing and initiate treatment.

This unfortunate circumstance has led to the inadvertent transmission of the virus from mother to child, perpetuating the cycle of paediatric HIV in the region.

"We have encountered cases where children born in foster homes are brought to Masaka Regional Referral Hospital for routine vaccinations or treatment for unrelated ailments, only to discover that they are HIV-positive and some were malnourished and the mothers bring them to “Mwana Mugimu” when we do checkups we find them when they are positive with HIV," Dr Elima revealed.

This underscores the importance of comprehensive testing protocols for all newborns and early intervention strategies to prevent the spread of the virus.

Health officials are urging mothers to prioritize regular check-ups during pregnancy and to seek prompt medical attention if they suspect they may be HIV positive.

Early detection and treatment not only improve maternal health outcomes but also significantly reduce the risk of vertical transmission to newborns.

In response to the escalating crisis, Masaka regional referral hospital has intensified its efforts to provide accessible HIV testing and counselling services to pregnant women. Additionally, community outreach programs are being implemented to raise awareness about the importance of prenatal care and HIV prevention strategies.

While the battle against pediatric HIV/AIDS in the Masaka region remains daunting, concerted efforts by health authorities, community leaders, and stakeholders are crucial in curbing the spread of the virus and safeguarding the well-being of future generations.

As Dr Elima aptly stated, "prevention is key, but early detection and treatment are equally essential in our fight against pediatric HIV/AIDS."

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