Baylor College of Medicine-Children’s Foundation Malawi (BCM-CFM) executive director Peter Kazembe says Malawi needs to urgently introduce by-laws to punish people who stigmatise against children living with HIV and Aids.
Kazembe said this in Lilongwe during an exclusive interview with The Nation.
He proposed that Parliament should pass a special vote to fund comprehensive psycho-social forums for the children born—and growing up—with HIV and Aids.
The paediatrician—whose work has won him international acclaim, including in top-notch medical colleges and institutions in the United Kingdom and Canada—said this in reaction to reported growing stigmatisation faced by the HIV-positive children and adolescents in schools and communities.
He said most disturbing reports have come from some secondary schools and colleges, where some learners and teachers/lecturers search the possessions of the HIV-positive pupils and students and reveal—to all and sundry—that the medication found was confirmation that the concerned are HIV and Aids positive.
Said Kazembe: “Most adolescents have been complaining that some teachers may cite them as examples in classes during HIV sessions.”
He recommended that apart from introducing the tough by-laws, many community caregivers should be trained, since the number of the children and adolescents living with HIV and Aids is growing –including 9 384 who have registered at the BCM –CFM during the past 11 years of its operation in the country.
BCM-CFM is largely the reason there has been an improvement in the care, advocacy and the survival of HIV-infected children. The current active cohort is 3 616, of which 3 126 (86.4 percent) are on ART and of the total number of patients on ART, 2 110 (67.5 percent) are children.
Commenting on the issue, vice-chairperson of the Parliamentary Health Committee, Victor Musowa, said he fully supports Kazembe’s sentiments which, he noted, will turn to fruition when the HIV and Aids Bill will be tabled and debated in National Assembly soon. n