"With children, HIV infection is not treated just by pills. Children need the care of family, they have to have friends, they have to go to school. It's not just medical care." When Dr. Pagakrong Lumbiganon speaks about her work with HIV-positive children at Thailand's Srinagarind Hospital, she chooses her words calmly, but at moments her voice catches with emotion. She has been treating infected children for more than ten years and every day she sees the limits of what doctors can achieve. "As physicians," she says quietly, "we can only provide maybe 20 percent of what children need."
The importance of a network of care is an article of faith among HIV/AIDS pediatricians. As TREAT Asia steering committee member Dr. Annette Sohn stated at the network's September 2007 meeting, "The quality of the collaborative relationship between the caretaker and the child will determine the success of treatment." But putting that hard-won wisdom into action is a tremendous challenge across Asia, where government funding for pediatric HIV/AIDS treatment rarely covers support services of any kind.
Confronted with the need to effectively support the HIV-positive children under their care, some TREAT Asia-affiliated pediatric programs have been able to contrive a variety of innovative strategies to help them to offer a broader range of services. For Dr. Pagakrong and her pediatric
"I've been looking after kids with HIV for six years and I've found that if parents don't understand what's going on, the child won't get the medicine."
HIV/AIDS team in Khon Kaen, teaming up with existing NGOs has offered one path. In Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, another TREAT Asia Network pediatrician—Dr. Fong Siew Moy at Likas Hospital—raised money herself to found a nonprofit organization devoted to providing support services for the hospital's pediatric HIV/AIDS patients. And in Cambodia, John Tucker established New Hope for Cambodian Children as a comprehensive social services organization for HIV-infected children, partnering with the Cambodian government to provide medical care.