The fight against paediatric HIV

Ms Jolly Twongyeirwe, Communication Officer 

What you need to know:

  • ...double their efforts in ensuring that every child in Uganda has the opportunity to live a healthy, HIV-free life. 

In the relentless battle against HIV/Aids, Uganda has long been at the forefront, pioneering innovative strategies to combat the spread of this devastating virus. In the vast landscape of healthcare challenges, the battle against HIV/Aids stands out as a pivotal frontier. As part of this broader fight, the Ministry of Health with support from PEPFAR launched a crucial campaign dubbed Munoonye (Find the Child) HIV testing for children and adolescents.

In a country where approximately 1.4 million people are living with HIV, and where children and adolescents account for a significant portion of new infections. The prevalence of HIV among children aged 0-14 years is 0.5 percent which corresponds to approximately 95,000 children living with HIV in Uganda. 

According to UNAIDS, an estimated 150,000 children under the age of 15 were living with HIV in Uganda in 2021. While this represents a decrease from previous years, it underscores the ongoing need for targeted interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission and ensure access to early diagnosis and treatment for HIV-positive children.

One of the primary challenges in addressing paediatric HIV lies in the realm of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). While Uganda has made significant strides in expanding PMTCT services, barriers such as limited access to healthcare facilities, cultural stigmas surrounding HIV/Aids, and gaps in maternal healthcare infrastructure continue to impede progress. As a result, many HIV-positive mothers remain unaware of their status or face barriers to accessing the care and support they need to prevent transmission to their children.

Furthermore, the journey from diagnosis to treatment for HIV-positive children in Uganda is fraught with obstacles. Despite efforts to expand access to paediatric HIV testing and treatment services, many children still face challenges in accessing care due to factors such as poverty, geographic isolation, and inadequate healthcare infrastructure. 
Moreover, the lifelong nature of HIV treatment poses unique challenges for paediatric patients, requiring ongoing support and monitoring to ensure adherence and optimal health outcomes.

Amidst these challenges, however, there are signs of hope and progress. Initiatives such as the Munoonye (Find the Child) HIV testing campaign are a timely response. 

Munoonye HIV testing campaign targets to identify over 10,000 children and adolescents who are living with HIV, but have not yet been identified and started on treatment. The campaign also aims to enhance HIV testing and care through innovative approaches to testing, treatment, and community engagement.
Leveraging on other initiatives, the Ministry of Health and its partners will implement the campaign for six months starting in April to September 2024 as part of the efforts towards achieving the UNAIDS target 95.

At its core, Munoonye is a rallying cry, urging every corner of society to unite in the pursuit of a common goal, to identify and support every child affected by HIV. Through a comprehensive network of testing centres, outreach programs, and community partnerships, the campaign seeks to bridge the gap between stigma and acceptance, ignorance and awareness.

As Uganda charts its course forward in the fight against HIV/Aids, the status of paediatric HIV serves as a poignant reminder of the work that remains to be done. It is a call to action for policymakers, healthcare providers, community leaders, and individuals alike to redouble their efforts in ensuring that every child in Uganda has the opportunity to live a healthy, HIV-free life. 
Only through collective action, compassion, and unwavering determination, we can truly nurture hope and build a future where paediatric HIV is but a distant memory.

    Ms Jolly Twongyeirwe, Communication Officer ,        Ministry of Health