The rights of children infected or affected by AIDS

Every first day of December is World AIDS day. It is dedicated to remembering those who have died of the disease, creating awareness about its spreading, and celebrating the achievements that have been made in combating its spread.

AIDS has no cure and knows no age. This means that those who are infected or affected by it need treatment and care. For children in Rwanda, there is N° 20/32 of 05/12/2013, the ministerial Order determining programs and strategies to ensure protection and assistance to children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Article 3 of the ministerial order says that healthcare givers and facilities have the responsibility of providing adequate care to children above 12 who are living with AIDS even if those children are not accompanied by parents or guardians. They have to monitor the child, provide counselling and ensure that the child follows his/her treatment according to the doctor’s instructions.

Children suffering from HIV/AIDS have the right to education without discrimination or ridicule from their peers. That is why article 4 of the ministerial order says, “Any school where a child who is infected with HIV/AIDS attends is responsible for putting in place specific places where the child can safely take antiretroviral drugs in confidentiality.”

Additionally, the school has to assign a person who will monitor the child, counsel him/her and provide any necessary assistance. The person in charge of assisting the child must keep a close link to a healthcare facility.

Article 5 of the ministerial order determining programs and strategies to ensure protection and assistance to children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS stipulates the responsibilities of parents whose children are infected or affected by the disease. It says that parents have to encourage the child to be regularly diagnosed, assist the child to have financial, medical and psychosocial support and to engage the child in discussions about reproductive health.

Discussions about reproductive health are particularly important because the commonest way that HIV/AIDS is spread is through having unprotected sex with an infected person.

According to articles 6 and 7 and 8 of the ministerial determining programs and strategies to ensure protection and assistance to children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, a child suffering from HIV/AIDS has the right to access to systematic diagnostic services, medication and the right to give his/her opinion concerning follow-up. Additionally, article 7 states: “The child shall also have the right to be encouraged to join support groups to be able to express his/her opinion with peers.”

Since children living with HIV/AIDS require nutritional support, article 9 of N° 20/32 of 05/12/2013 says that “a child on anti-retroviral medication shall benefit from nutritional support, which includes nutritional education and complementary feeding for those in need so as to ensure good health.”

Families and health facilities are responsible for ensuring that the infected child gets nutritional support and education.

A child suffering from HIV/AIDS has a right to information on family planning and about means of transmission so that he/she doesn’t infect others. This is according to article 10 of N° 20/32 of 05/12/2013. Additionally, such a child has the right to desire to pregnant and he/she can do that once he/she is an adult because unlike years ago, AIDS is no longer a death sentence.