Paediatric palliative care is an emerging subspecialty that focuses on achieving the best possible quality of life for children with life-limiting conditions and also for their families. It is a response to the suffering and unique needs of such children. Globally there is limited documented data available on the palliative care needs of children with HIV. A retrospective review of data of all the HIV exposed and positive children who were admitted to the ward from January to December 2012 was done to document their palliative care needs.
A total of 243 children were admitted to the ward during the stated period. Of these, 139 (57.2%) were female and 104 (42.8%) were male. Among them 131 (54%) were aged five years and below whereas 112 (46%) were above five years. Some of the identified palliative care needs documented included physical needs: pneumonia 46 (19%), severe acute malnutrition 38 (16%), mild and moderate acute malnutrition
23 (9.6%), and respiratory tract infections 22 (9.3%). Social needs: poor social support 21 (41%), financial instability 16 (31%), and child neglect 4 (8%). Psychological needs: antiretroviral treatment (ART) counselling 127 (36%), HIV counselling and testing for the child and family 63 (18%), adherence support 53 (15%), and others 11 (3%). Spiritual needs: discontinuing ART because of belief in spiritual
healing 18 (81%), loss of hope because of severe ill health 1 (5%), and others 3 (14%).
These results emphasise the need for palliative care in children with HIV even in the era of ART. The needs identified are in keeping with studies done elsewhere and are similar to the palliative care needs of children with other life-limiting illnesses such as cancer.
Conclusion: HIV positive and exposed children plus their families have vast palliative care needs and a holistic approach is the key in their management.