Saving the Children

January 9. 2014

*This piece was originally posted in January of 2013, but as we begin the new year, we want to focus in on one of the most impactful aspects of the CARE for AIDS model- orphan prevention. 

I don’t like watching horror movies because I grew up witnessing a lot of horrifying situations in my life.  One of them is seeing hopelessness in orphans because of HIV and AIDS.  The horror of seeing the parents die and then the children follow is not a pleasing one.  If the children are lucky enough, they find themselves in the orphanages, street corners, with grandmothers or with some poor relatives who may have other 10 children in the slum.  I said that was enough horror  in my life and I would not like to introduce more artificial horrors again.  I would rather live with the natural ones that I cannot avoid.

Today my best movies to watch are action movies.  Because I always want to put on my full gear and fight some of these vices in our society.  It always seems to me that people especially the government and the church are not fighting enough.  If we were fighting enough these vices would be decreasing, but they don’t.  So each time I watch an action movie, I want to borrow some principles on how I can fight the spread of HIV and AIDS especially on children because they are always victims in this predicament.  They did not contribute in any way.  It is more frustrating to learn that when they grow up, they are again victimized and stigmatized.  This is because our society is made to think that anybody with AIDS  is/was a prostitute.

At CFA we have intervened in a unique way: through prevention of mother to child transmission (MTCT).  We realized that this will save the lives of these innocent children. It is unique because many people would expect us to enroll the children in our program, but we don’t.  Instead we enroll their parents, especially their mothers.  We believe this is the root cause of the problem.

Without this intervention, an estimated 20%-45% of the babies born to HIV- infected mothers will acquire HIV infection from their mothers.  This figure could go higher in some regions especially those without health centers nearby.  MTCT of HIV may occur at any stage during pregnancy(5%-10%), labour and delivery (10%-15%), or breast feeding (5%-20%).  All these factors put the new born baby at a very high risk and that is why most of the children that come to our centers are always positive.

Good news is that at CFA we have been able to change this story by a number of interventions that we make. Some of them are:

1. We make sure that they are using antiretroviral drugs. Also called antiretroviral prophylaxis and treatment (ART).

2.We ensure optimal appropriate infant feeding practices.

3. We encourage safer obstetrical practices.

4.We ensure they deliver at the hospitals under the care of a medical personnel not under a midwife.  We help foot the bill.

5. We ensure there is proper care and treatment for the women and their families after birth.

By ensuring all these practices, we reduce the risk to less than 5%. Therefore, at CFA, we are caring for children more than one could imagine.  Today, none of the children born in our program have turned HIV positive.