Uganda: Rising pediatric HIV cases in Masaka raise concern

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

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

According to Dr. James Elima, the director of Masaka Regional Hospital, attributed the rise in pediatric HIV cases to several factors, including lack of maternal attendance at specialist check-ups and delayed initiation of treatment.

“Mothers who fail to seek specialist care during pregnancy and fail to start treatment early are inadvertently putting their children at risk of contracting the virus,” said Dr. Elima.

An important finding highlighted by Dr. Elima is the prevalence of mothers giving birth in nursing homes locally known as ‘Bamulerwa’ who lack the necessary skills to undergo HIV testing and initiate treatment.

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

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

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

The health authorities encourage mothers to prioritize regular check-ups during pregnancy and to seek immediate medical attention if they suspect they may be HIV-positive.

Early detection and treatment not only improves maternal health outcomes, but also significantly reduces 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 counseling services to pregnant women. In addition, community outreach programs are implemented to raise awareness of the importance of prenatal care and HIV prevention strategies.

While the fight against pediatric HIV/AIDS in the Masaka region remains daunting, a concerted effort by health authorities, community leaders and stakeholders is essential to curb the spread of the virus and ensure the well-being of future generations.

As Dr. Elima aptly said, “prevention is key, but early detection and treatment are equally crucial in our fight against pediatric HIV/AIDS.”

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