Access to antiretroviral treatment by children in KwaZulu-Natal Province : a qualitative exploratory study into factors influencing poor access.
South Africa and the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has one of the greatest HIV burdens in the world with an estimated 5.7 mHIion people living with HIV/AIDS. One of the interventions that the government introduced to address this situation was the provision of antiretroviral treatment (ART) to those individuals that are eligible for HIV treatment in order to reduce the morbidity and mortality. Despite widespread availability of ART in KZN, children do not access ART to the extent that adults do, and therefore continue to die because of HIV and AIDS. This qualitative study explored the psychosocial and health system factors that influence paediatric access to ART in KZN from parents and caregivers perspectives. The ecological theory and the social cognitive theory was used to formulate an interview schedule used in conducting the in-depth interviews with adults (parents or guardians) who were bringing their children for ARTservices and those attending these services themselves and not their children at Edendale and King Edward Hospitals in KZN. Purposive sampling was used to select clients for interviews and thematic was done in accordance with the aims and objectives of the study. A total of 42 participants were interviewed in this study. The low uptake of child ART was found to be influenced by several psychosocial and economic factors such as the poor knowledge about ART, stigma and disclosure associated with HIV, extent of support provided by parents/caregivers, parent's own ART was a determinant for bringing children for ART, use of traditional / alternative medicines, disintegrated families, especially the issue of multiple caregivers, complexity of paediatric ART, poor referrals of children from community institutions, unsatisfactory service at clinics, and some health policy and legislation with respect to health care for HIV-infected children that had an unintended effect of restricting child access to ART as well as poverty related Issues. Improving knowledge and self-efficacy related to ART, prevention of mother to child transmission ofHIV, re-training of health workers on child issues and addressing stigma and discrimination and other psychosocial and institutional problems and logistics could help to improve the low paediatric uptake of ART.