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International News

Mali's Children With HIV Are Told They Have Virus

May 9, 2007

As part of a program begun last December at the Gabriel Toure hospital in Bamako, children who have HIV are told of their status at a very young age.

Children and their relatives participate in question-and-answer sessions conducted by doctors using illustrations, such as fighting soldiers to represent white blood cells. The children learn of their status in a group, over several sessions.

"We tell them we took some of their blood and found a virus," explained Dr. Isabelle Traore. "We tell them many people around the world have this virus. We say, before people used to die from this virus, but now there is a treatment'. We ask them if they understood. We ask them what they have."

If some answer AIDS, the doctors explain the difference. "We do all this very slowly," Traore said. "And we try to do [it] in a soothing, friendly atmosphere."

Pierre Robert, an official with UNICEF Mali who helps coordinate the program, said when the children learn about HIV, they become more responsible. "The child becomes responsible for his own health," Roberts said. "He knows why he needs to always come back to the hospital and get his blood drawn. After that, he knows to be careful when he begins to be sexually active. We have patients now who are teenagers and already sexually active. And the sooner we tell them, the less dramatic it is."

Doctors said the most important component of the program may be that HIV-positive children find out sooner that it is possible to live a productive life despite being infected.

Back to other news for May 2007

Adapted from:
Voice of America News
05.08.07; Nico Colombant

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More News on HIV/AIDS in Mali