Health Workers train on handling HIV in Pediatrics

FREETOWN – As Ebola confirmed cases in Sierra Leone hover around ten per week, efforts are starting to shift to strengthening the overall health system, particularly with an eye on the three health-related Millennium Development Goals of reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.

This week, the training of health workers in early infant diagnosis and pediatric HIV treatment restarted for the first time since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak, to combat a virus that caused (in 2012) 1.6 million deaths worldwide, 1.2 million of them in sub Saharan Africa (UNAIDS).

With funds from the European Union, UNICEF is training 28 health workers from the four districts of the southern region in the town of Bo 5-9 May 2015. The training was implemented by the National Aids Control Programme (NACP) of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and aims at increasing the knowledge and skills of HIV health care providers to diagnose and treat infants infected with HIV.

“We expect all participants at the end of the training to be equipped with sound knowledge and skills to diagnose and fast track HIV treatments for infants,” said Khadija Bangura, one of the trainers from the NACP.

Grace Bianca, a health worker from Samalane village in Pujehun District, who is part of the training, expressed her delight and satisfaction.

“I am learning a lot! I now know how to administer HIV drugs on infants and pregnant women, and counsel and taking care of them properly,” she said. “This is beyond my expectations. I say a big thanks to the donors for supporting this initiative.”

Sierra Leone has 1.5 percent HIV prevalence rate according to the Demographic and Health Survey 2013. Though the level is comparatively lower than many other African countries, efforts aimed at prevention and control need to be scaled up.

The training will be repeated in the Eastern region from 26 to 30 May 2015. Last year, the European Union also funded the same training for health workers in Northern Province and the Western Area.

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