I gave my angel boy the HI Virus

Two months after starting his antiretroviral treatment for AIDS, orphan Zamokuhle Mdingwe, 7, takes the pills as he does every morning and evening. At this point his health was improving and he was feeling a lot better than when he started taking medication. Zamo's mother had died nine months earlier from AIDS-related infections. Zamo was being cared for by his elderly grandparents. His drugs were being provided by the Siyaphila La (
Two months after starting his antiretroviral treatment for AIDS, orphan Zamokuhle Mdingwe, 7, takes the pills as he does every morning and evening. At this point his health was improving and he was feeling a lot better than when he started taking medication. Zamo's mother had died nine months earlier from AIDS-related infections. Zamo was being cared for by his elderly grandparents. His drugs were being provided by the Siyaphila La ("We are living here") HIV-treatment programme, which is making antiretroviral treatment easily available in this poor, rural district.

DINEO Molebatsi still remembers the day when doctors confirmed that her little angel was HIV positive as if it happened yesterday, but it was more than four years ago.

DINEO Molebatsi still remembers the day when doctors confirmed that her little angel was HIV positive as if it happened yesterday, but it was more than four years ago.

Obakeng was a sick child from birth. He had colds and flu all the time. He was also prone to oral thrush.

Molebatsi put Obakeng's ill- health down to early childhood diseases.

It was only after he became gravely ill and was taken to hospital that doctors did tests and discovered he was infected with HIV.

Molebatsi also underwent a test and the results were the same. Mother and child are now on antiretroviral treatment.

Molebatsi, of Alexandra in Johannesburg, has still not explained to her child why she has to take medication every morning and does not know how to do it.

"Each time I look at him tears fill my eyes. He is so young and innocent and I gave him this dreaded and incurable disease, " Molebatsi says.

"Sometimes he asks me why he has to take the medication and I tell him it's good for his health. I tell him it will make him big and strong."

"The guilt is eating me up. If there was any way I could change things or trade places with my little Obakeng I would," she says.

"How do you tell a six-year-old that he is living with a disease that will take his life someday? Which words do I use to explain how he got it and why it is important for him to take ARVs for the rest of his life?"

Experts in early childhood development say that telling a child about his-her HIV status is always a tricky exercise.

"There is no right or wrong time to do this. The parent or guardian will know when the time arrives. The issue of disclosure is a very sensitive one to children. It has been debated but as far as I know, no age limit has been placed on it," says Andre Viviers, education specialist on early childhood development at Unicef.

"The vital thing for parents to remember is that those who care for children, like teachers and nannies, need to know about the child's status. They have to understand that he takes medication at certain times and has to have something to eat before taking it," Viviers says.

Last year 29percent of pregnant women between the ages of 15 and 49 tested HIV positive in South Africa. The worst-affected province was KwaZulu-Natal, followed by Mpumalanga.

There are 15,5million children under the age of 15 in South Africa. It is estimated that the HIV prevalence in children is five percent.

Early this month, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, announcing the latest HIV statistics, revealed that 57percent of deaths in children under five years last year was caused by HIV.

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