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  Child issues

HIV-infected children in need of equal rights

Like all other children, HIV-infected children have the right to live, be protected and enjoy love from the people. However, many of them are abandoned by their parents after birth and many people do not want to come in contact or care for such children because they fear being infected.

Recent surveys conducted in Hanoi and HCM City showed that there was an increasing number of HIV-infected children who were abandoned by their parents after birth at public places or pagodas. The increase resulted from poor medical conditions and poor education of the mothers. It has become a pressing issue for the whole society.

According to statistics, about 545 children living with HIV/AIDS are being cared for at social support centres, hospitals and compassionate houses in HCM City. In 2003 alone, 222 such children were brought up in their homes.

Also in HCM City, the number of pregnant women with HIV/AIDS increased to 6 percent from 1.2 percent. The Tu Du Obstetrics Hospital now cares for 300 children infected with HIV.

Meanwhile, in Hanoi, the number of children living with HIV/AIDS doubled from 2002. About 61 new cases were reported in the first half of 2003 - equivalent to the total of the previous year.

Normally, the infection rate from mother to child ranges between 25 and 35 percent. If pregnant women receive special medicinal care at the 8th month, the infection rate can fall to 8 percent.

In fact, most of the pregnant women discover that they are infected with the fatal disease after they are hospitalized to give birth. In addition, not all pregnant women can afford HIV/AIDS drugs because they are so expensive.

The question remains how to care for and treat HIV/AIDS babies to ensure their proper right to live. Normally, mothers intentionally refuse to disclose their addresses so that hospitals cannot inform the localities of the mothers’ identities. Municipal/provincial authorities claim wards and communes should be responsible for managing the mothers. But wards and communes say they receive no information from the hospitals.

Instead of anti-HIV medicines, infected newborns now only take medicines to treat infectious diseases such as bronchitis, cholera and allergies.In principle, hospitals do not inform any of their relatives of the children’s disease, except for their parents.

According to Doctor Nguyen Trong An, Deputy Head of the Children Department under the National Committee on Population, Family and Children, Vietnam should amend and supplement legal documents related to HIV/AIDS control for children. Specific policies should be devised to ensure that nurses are devoted to caring for HIV/AIDS children at public places such as social support centres and medical clinics.

For instance, nurses should be protected against the high risk of infection or provided with regular check-ups. These legal documents would also encourage parents to care for their infected children at home.

More national programs on HIV/AIDS control among children should be developed to reduce the risk of infection among children. National programs to curb the transmission of the disease from mother to child should be effectively implemented, while all pregnant women should have access to consultations, care and preventive treatment.

vns - (08/07/2004)

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