South Africa is committed to reaching the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets by 2025, whereby 95% of people living with HIV (PLHIV) know their status, 95% of those are on sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 95% of people receiving treatment are virally suppressed.
In 2023 in South Africa, 92% of PLHIV know their status, 77% of those are on ARVs, and 92% of those are virally suppressed. To close the gaps, certain challenges still need to be overcome, including those associated with paediatric HIV management and care.
On Wednesday, 12 July a Family Care Day was held at Nqamakwe Community Health Centre (CHC) in the Amathole District Municipality of the Eastern Cape to address paediatric HIV management challenges – and the structural and societal barriers on the road to 95-95-95.
The event brought together key stakeholders, including the Department of Health (DOH) District Manager, the district HAST team, Ward Councillors, Old Mutual, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and Beyond Zero, all united in their efforts to improve paediatric and adolescent HIV care in a district which is struggling to make significant progress against targets.
Among the challenges:
- Case finding among children and men
- Linkage to treatment for all age groups
- Viral load suppression among children under 10 years (currently at 77%)
- Mother-to-child transmission rates leading to new child infections
A big part of the day focused on interacting with the community, raising awareness and delivering services. CHC Case Officers and Community Health Workers successfully recalled 40 of 48 children on antiretroviral therapy (ART), 14 clients received HIV testing services (HTS), Professional Nurses (PNs) and Medical Officers provided treatment and specialised care for clients with unsuppressed viral loads, while PNs led adherence counselling sessions for clients with upcoming return dates. Youngsters were also empowered through a fun and engaging “Snakes and Ladders” game, designed to educate children about treatment adherence, peer influence and family support.
Importantly, the event also established a Youth Care group for adolescents living with HIV. This group will help motivate and support newly diagnosed children and adolescents struggling with viral load (VL) suppression. Progress on VL suppression will be monitored through a Quality Improvement (QI) project.
The Family Care Day at Nqamakwe CHC highlighted the power of collective action and collaboration in tackling paediatric HIV management challenges. By addressing case finding, improving linkage to care, enhancing viral load suppression, and preventing mother-to-child transmission, the Amathole district is making meaningful strides towards achieving the 95-95-95 targets. All stakeholders remain committed to a brighter future for children and adolescents living with HIV in the region.