For the first time in Cambodia, a state-run hospital will provide free anti-retroviral drugs to HIV-infected children under the age of 15 after they are cured of opportunistic infectious diseases, Chhour Ey Meng, director of the National Pediatric Hospital, said Wednesday.
The plan to offer the drugs to children is the third and final step in a master plan to combat HIV/AIDS in children, he added.
The first step, initiated in 2002, involves having midwives test pregnant women to find out if they are infected with HIV. If the woman tests positive, then the baby is tested for HIV 18 months after birth.
If the baby tests positive for HIV, the second step for the hospital is to provide drugs to fight opportunistic infectious diseases—those that take advantage of the child’s depleted immune system—such as tuberculosis, influenza and typhoid.
Once the child is cured of the infectious diseases, the third step is to provide anti-retroviral drugs to the children.
The National Pediatric Hospital plans to offer the drugs to 50 HIV-infected children this year, beginning in April, Chhour Ey Meng said.
“As the doctors, it is very sad that we could not help the patients before,” he said, adding he was happy that the drugs are now being offered to children.
Before the children are provided with drugs, a health adviser will advise the parents how to use the drugs properly. If the children do not take the drugs regularly, they will be even more susceptible to infectious diseases, Chhour Ey Meng said. “If the children use the anti-retroviral drugs they have to use them the rest of their lives,” he said.
Tia Phalla, secretary-general of the National AIDS Authority, applauded the plan Wednesday.
“It is very good that the hospital provides anti-retroviral drugs to the children infected with HIV so those patients can live longer,” he said.
He expressed concern, however, about how well the children can use the drugs.
After one year, the hospital plans to assess the condition of the children on anti-retroviral drugs and review the program, Chhour Ey Meng said.