HomeNews‘Pupils miss lessons queuing for ARVs’

‘Pupils miss lessons queuing for ARVs’

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A LOCAL health lobby group, Citizens Health Watch (CHW), has revealed that schoolchildren on anti-retroviral treatment (ART) are skipping lessons while queuing for long hours at health institutions to receive their life-saving drugs.

by VENERANDA LANGA

CHW trustee Fungisai Dube said their monitors noted that schoolchildren on ART were at times forced to spend between four and five hours in queues at clinics.

“Children on ART who were interviewed – and some of them were in their school uniform and reading school notes in the queues — felt the system exposed them and affected their school attendance as they were always late for school on the dates they received ARVs,” Dube said.

“Healthcare institutions should be conscious about the rights of children even as they offer services and we implore hospitals to develop child-friendly systems which do not interfere with their studies,” she said.

CHW said putting schoolchildren in queues violated their rights to play and education.

“Such treatment contributes to non-adherence, and the fight to achieve zero new HIV infections will remain a mirage as long as ART systems continue to inadvertently promote non-adherence,” Dube said.

The health watchdog cited an example where a school-going child on ART said he got a backlash from his teacher for turning up late at school whenever he went to queue for his ARV allocation.

“The teacher asked the student why he was always at hospital adding, ‘by the way you are one of those on ARVs’ in front of the rest of the class. The boy says he is now stigmatised and discriminated by his fellow classmates,” she said.

Another student was said to have stopped taking ARVs because of stigma and the system that exposed his HIV status.

Zimbabwe Council for the Welfare of Children national director Taylor Nyanhete said the general policy was that children were supposed to be attended to first when it came to accessing ARVs so that they were not prejudiced of school time.

“The good thing is that the hospital is enabling the children to access ARVs. However, health institutions issuing ARVs need to adjust their time so that children are not prejudiced of school time as access to ARVs and education is part of their rights,” Nyanhete said.

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