As many as 4,447 children living with HIV and Aids will suffer as the Uganda Aids clinic caring for them threatens to shut.
Mildmay, the UK based HIV and Aids charity which runs the hospital has said a funding shortfall means it may be forced to stop treating children within six months.
“Mildmay Uganda’s 33-bed paediatric in-patient unit, which offers acute care, rehabilitation and close monitoring for children with advanced HIV symptoms, is facing financial constraints,” Dr Emmanuel Luyirika, told a press conference on Monday.
“The unit will be closed in the next six months unless well-wishers, the government and non-governmental organisations provide additional financial support,” he said appealing for donations to help keep it running.
Funders want Mildmay to move its clinic from its base in the capital, Kampala to 13 local centres in the East African country’s central region. But the clinic’s managers say they need longer to build the new clinics so that people needing immediate treatment don’t suffer from a gap in care.
But it is the child HIV and Aids patients who stand to suffer. Most of the children arrive at the unit are usually ill, said Dr Luyirika but after six days treatment are able to walk out and start taking anti-retroviral drugs.
The Mildmay is treating about 22,000 patients with anti-retroviral drugs, of which 4,447 are children and the rest women of child-bearing age. The situation, he said, is alarming because the hospital hopes to admit more than 18,000 patients in the next five years.
“The number of children born with HIV/Aids is still high because majority of the mothers shun hospitals,” the hospital director told the country’s Daily Monitor newspaper. He added that out of a million babies, 92,000 are born to HIV-positive mothers.
Early this year, the Uganda Aids Commission announced that more than 442,000 people needed anti-retroviral treatment, but only half could receive it. However, the statistics improved when the US government offered to enrol 72,000 more people on free treatment.
The national HIV prevalence rate currently stands at 6.4%. However, due to the high number of new infections each year, the demand for anti-retrovirals has been rising.
There are an estimated 1.1 million people living with HIV in Uganda, which includes 120,000 children, according to figures from the Aids charity, Avert. An estimated 61,000 people died from Aids in 2008 and 1.2 million children have been orphaned by Uganda's epidemic.