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Include children in national AIDS strategies - HRW

afrol News, 6 February - Human Rights Watch has urged the new Kenyan National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan to address rights of children to access, treatment and care of HIV.

Human Rights Watch in December last year 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. However, the government denied the reports.

HRW said as Kenya' National Aids Control Council (NACC) prepares a new five-year strategic plan, it should not leave thousands of children who need life saving drugs in the country.

HRW Senior Researcher in the Children's Rights Division, Juliane Kippenberg said it is critical for Kenya to recognise that basic human rights issues, should be incorporated in the HIV strategy, policy, and programming.

"HIV/AIDS strategies in Kenya too often focus only on medical care itself. Steps to promote and protect human rights need to take place in tandem with steps that improve medical care if the strategy is going to be successful," she said.

About half of adult Kenyans who need anti-retroviral treatment are receiving it, compared to an estimated one-third of children who need such treatment, the group has observed.

"Many children are falling through the cracks when it comes to testing and treatment. Health facilities should offer testing to all children below the age of 5, and all children whose mothers are HIV-positive or who have died of the disease," Ms Kippenberg said.

Anti-retroviral treatment for children is often offered only at central health facilities, and not at local ones, making transportation costs a significant barrier to access. Frequently, children are also not taken for testing by their caregivers because of the stigma attached to the illness, misinformation, neglect, or lack of resources, according to the right's organisation.

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.

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