Update on Power of Love’s Project “Health Care for HIV Positive Children in Zambia”
The Power of Love team would like to thank donors for supporting Power of Love Foundations’ pediatric AIDS care program (Arms Reach Care program) in Zambia. With your support we have been able to provide food, medicines, and a package of life-saving health services to 148 HIV positive children in the Matero compound in Lusaka, Zambia. The package of services provided to children includes weekly health check-ups from Community Health workers, monthly visits from the Project Nurse, psychosocial counseling, and education in HIV prevention and adherence monitoring and training for older children. In addition, we provide ongoing training in HIV/AIDS care to caregivers (most of them are grandmothers) of the children.
Achievements of POL’s Pediatric AIDS care program in 2011
- We continue to provide food, medicines, and weekly health visits to all the children enrolled in POL’s pediatric AIDS care program in Lusaka, Zambia. The addition of a high protein soya supplement (particularly for very sick children), has accelerated their weight-gain process and the soya supplement is now a regular component of the food package. As a result, the diet and nutrition level of all families has improved leading to increased weight, fewer infections, and higher CD4 counts (leading to a delay in the start of antiretroviral (ARV) medication). We are proud to report that all children gained weight and showed an improvement in their CD4 count January to October 2011. Finally, improved nutrition and continuous medical care has led to a higher school attendance.
- In January 2011, we added 18 children to the program to bring the total to 148 HIV positive children. All children have been tested and all are HIV positive. Out of the 147 (as we lost one child in 2011) HIV positive children, 93 are on ARV’s. Since 100% of the children are HIV positive, 63% are on ARV’s, less than 1/3rd of the children are cared for by both parents, and 2/3rds are orphans, there is a huge need to provide all children with food, medicines and weekly visits by the health care worker/Nurse and to provide continuous monitoring of the health and medication regimen of the children on ARV’s.
- All children who are eligible for school are attending school.
- All children who are on ARV’s are being monitored to ensure adherence to their medication regime. There are 69 children who are aware of their status and all of them are able to adhere to their medication schedule with minimal support from their care givers. Pill boxes are provided to older children to help them adhere to their medication regimen, and pediatric medicine spoons are provided to caregivers of younger children so that caregivers can give the exact dosage to the child.
- All children are being provided with psychosocial counseling. Children in our program need counseling for the following reasons: a. they suffer from fear of loss as soon as a parent is diagnosed with HIV, b. they have to deal with the stigma associated with the disease, and c. if the child is orphaned she/he may have to leave familiar surroundings and may not be readily accepted by the extended family. As a result, counseling is an important part of the child’s mental health and counseling of children and family members has become an important part of our pediatric AIDS care program.
- Older children who are aware of their status are also provided education on HIV prevention, and risky sexual behaviors.
- All of our health care workers are trained in child counseling. In addition, they go through continuous practical and refresher training in care of HIV positive children.
Impact of the Program
The pediatric AIDS care program has increased survival rates of children in the Matero compound in Lusaka, Zambia and significantly improved the quality of life of their families. This program along with the micro loans and project mosquito nets program makes the entire program comprehensive as it takes care of physical (food, medicines, malaria bed nets, training provided to caregivers), social (education, cultural), and psychological (counselling, peer support groups) needs of the women and children. In addition, education on prevention of HIV and malaria, adherence to the ARV regimen and monitoring has reduced the number of children who might have developed resistance to drugs at an early age, leading to an increase in their life span. In addition to the direct beneficiaries of this program, 1100 children are indirect beneficiaries as their care givers have several children under their care and provide guidance to others in the community.
The different components of our program have made our program sustainable and we are seeing a long term systemic change in the community.
Story of a Child who benefited from POL’s pediatric AIDS care program
Attached is a picture of Ephram who is 6 years old, but weighs only 37 lbs. Ephram is tiny, but is full of energy and is always in high spirits. Ephram loves dancing and dances to music played on his grandfather’s cell phone.
Ephram was put on ARV medication before his first birthday. POL’s project Nurse had to make a special request with the doctors to place him on ARV medication, as according to the current medical protocol children under 2 years are not given ARV medication (as you cannot determine their HIV status). It is unlikely that Ephram would have survived if he had not been put on ARV’s at that time. Fortunately, the doctors changed their minds and put him on ARV’s. After 5 years on ARV’s Ephram’s health is stable, and he is a dancing machine!
In fact, Ephram’s positive response to the medication convinced the clinic doctors to change their policy and provide medicine to other children under two years of age if necessary, rather than waiting for the child to hit a specific age mark and risking a decline in his/her health.
Plans for 2011/12
POL’s pediatric AIDS care program has matured and our focus through 2011/12 continues to be provision of food, medicines and continuous quality care to the 147 HIV positive children, and training in HIV/AIDS care to the caregivers of the children.
In 2012, we would like to expand our program to include 500 HIV positive children as there are around 3500-4000 children in the Matero compound (where our program is located) in Lusaka, Zambia alone who would benefit from a program such as ours.