Kenya's Ministry of Health on Monday announced changes to its HIV testing and treatment procedures for at-risk infants and children in the country, The Nation/AllAfrica.com reports. The recommendations came in the form of a circular, titled "Change on Pediatric ART recommendations; Early Initiation of ART in infants," which was distributed on Sept. 29 to all medical and health personnel in the country.
The circular includes recommendations that infants exposed to HIV/AIDS be tested for the virus at six weeks instead of 18 months. It also recommends that starting at age six months, prophylactic treatment be given to infants born to HIV-positive mothers or those who test HIV-positive, according to Francis Kimani, the director of medical services. The circular called for infants and young children whose HIV status was not known at the time of their first health clinic visit be offered routine testing and feeding options. The Nation/AllAfrica.com reports that officials also recommended that children with parents or siblings living with HIV be offered HIV/AIDS testing. As part of the revised pediatric HIV/AIDS recommendations, the health ministry has begun training medical personnel on the new method of collecting testing samples from infants and children. Infants and children currently on antiretroviral treatment should continue with their treatment, but future patients will be started on newly recommended first-line treatment regimens, according to the recommendations. According to Kimani, pediatric HIV/AIDS treatment continues to be a major health and developmental issue in Kenya."The government must, therefore, make early identification and treatment of pediatric HIV as a top priority as it has been proved that when children receive [antiretroviral therapy] and other necessary care, 95% survive beyond six months and 90% beyond two years," Kimani said, adding that the new recommendations are an attempt to identify HIV-positive children and initiate treatment early (Agutu, The Nation/AllAfrica.com, 10/13).
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