HIV, the AIDS virus, not only infects adults, but also
affects many children. Millions have become orphans, and many are infected at
One of the organizations dealing with pediatric
AIDS is the Elizabeth Glaser Foundation. Dr. Denis Tindyebwa is the
foundation's regional director of pediatric care and treatment. From Dar es
Salaam, Tanzania, he spoke to VOA English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua.
"There are more than two million children living
with HIV/AIDS globally and over 90 percent of those children live in Africa and
specifically sub-Saharan Africa. Those children really are not getting the
treatment that they should be getting. Only about 20 percent of the children
are getting the life saving anti-retroviral drugs. But the issue is that these
children in actual fact should not be getting HIV in the first place. And yet,
every day, approximately 1,000 children become newly infected with HIV, the
majority of them through mother-to-child transmission, and the majority of
them, over 90 percent of them, in Africa," he says.
Dr. Tindyebwa says the drugs to prevent
mother-to-child transmission of the AIDS virus are available, but are still not
reaching many pregnant women who need them. Weaknesses in the health system are
the first problem. "The mothers live far away from the health facilities. And
the second reason is that there are not an adequate number of health workers to
provide these services to the mothers," he says.
For those children born with HIV because their
mothers did not receive the preventive medication, he says, "There are efforts
to provide treatment to them. There are drugs that are available, although not
as well as they should be. Unfortunately, many drugs are…usually tested in
adults and then they are given to children and some of them might not be good
for children. But even the ones that are good for children are not readily
available to Africa. But even if they are readily available, they would not
have the clean water to mix the suspensions. We do not have refrigerators to
keep the solutions (cool)."
He says that what's need are simple to use
tablets that combine several medications in one pill.
Tindyebwa warns that the younger generation is not as afraid of HIV/AIDS as
their parents or grandparents were. He says that the African culture has
changed because of Western influences, leading a person to have unsafe sex with
multiple partners. He also blames poverty as a driving force of the HIV/AIDS