- International human rights group has accused the Kenyan government of neglecting children in the roll out of life saving drugs, saying half of all children born with HIV will die before their second birthdays.
A 100-page report by Human Rights Watch released on Tuesday has warned that about 40, 000 children could die in the next 24 months if they cannot access antiretroviral treatment.
The report said though antiretroviral drugs are free in Kenya, the Nairobi government's HIV treatment programme has failed to get the lifesaving drugs to children born with HIV.
Senior researcher on Africa in the Children's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, Juliane Kippenberg, said lack of priority in children could be because there has been a problem with the drugs for children that are a little bit more complicated.
At least 60,000 children in Kenya are said to be in need to anti-retroviral treatment, but only 20,000 children, a third of the children are getting treatment, compared to about 54 percent of the estimated 392,000 adults in need of treatment, the group pointed out.
The report said many local health facilities do not ensure that children have access to HIV tests and rarely offer antiretroviral treatment for children. "Medical staff are often not trained to deal with HIV in children, and there are too few community health workers to help children gain access to testing and treatment," the report stated.
Ms Kippernberg however said the recent expansion of infant testing is a step in the right direction if carried out properly, but warned that the government needs to do much more to help children overcome treatment access barriers.
"Families often cannot afford transportation to health clinics or simply enough food for the medicines to work properly. As a result, children do not get the medicine they need, or they are forced to stop their treatment," Ms Kippenberg said.
Human Rights Watch appealed to both the Kenyan government and international donor agencies to strengthen health and child-protection systems to boost access to treatment for children.
The report further said HIV-positive mothers and children often experience discrimination, violence, and property loss, making it harder for the women and their children to seek care.
"Children, especially those orphaned by AIDS, are sometimes neglected, abused, or sent from one relative to another. The result often is that they don't get treatment. Economic barriers to treatment are also considerable," report stated.
The post election violence in 2007 and early 2008 is also reported to have disrupted some children's treatment, although others went back to treatment shortly after the violence.
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