How children access antiretroviral treatment at Kgapane District Hospital, Limpopo, South Africa
CITATION: Railton, J. & Mash, B. 2012. How children access antiretroviral treatment at Kgapane District Hospital, Limpopo, South Africa. South African Family Practice, 54(3):229-236.
The original publication is available at http://www.safpj.co.za
Background: At Kgapane Hospital, Limpopo Province, only 20% of eligible children initiated antiretroviral treatment (ART) in 2007. The aim of this study was to improve the ART programme by assessing how children were accessing ART, and to explore the factors that facilitate or obstruct this access. Method: Mixed methods were used in a descriptive study of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected children admitted to the hospital over a seven-month period and their caregivers. Children’s subsequent attendance for ART was tracked and caregivers were interviewed about factors influencing access and attendance. Results: Of 132 children initially admitted, 14 (10.6%) subsequently died and 13 (9.8%) relocated. Sixty of the remaining 105 (57.1%) returned within one month to the antiretroviral clinic, three (2.9%) attended later and 42 (40.0%) did not return at all. Quantitative data associated with poor attendance were younger age, higher CD4 count, maternal caregiver, no income and participation in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission program. Qualitative factors included a lack of money for transport, poor social support, and mothers who struggled to accept their diagnosis, had poor understanding of HIV and strong traditional beliefs. Primary care providers delayed HIV testing and referral, displayed poor attitudes, and were insufficient in number. Quantitative factors significantly associated with good attendance were prior knowledge of the child/mother’s HIV status, mother’s ART treatment and referral to the dietician. Conclusion: There are serious deficiencies in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of HIV in children. Factors were identified to improve health services and these highlight the need for broader strategies aimed at addressing poverty, stigma and education.