HIV/AIDS and Cancer

Looking back over the last 9 years the most enjoyable experiences of my biannual trips to Cameroon have been outreach visits into the bush to find children whom we have treated for cancer.

We go armed with a photo of the child, a village name and sometimes the mobile phone number of a parent or neighbour. A useful tactic is to go to the nearest school and present the photo. Someone will say, “I know that pekin: I will take you for house”.  This often means 2 people sitting on the front passenger seat of our vehicle and 4 in the back!

On Tuesday 31st May our palliative care nurse Joel Kaah and I visited the home of an HIV+ve child treated for Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer secondary to HIV/AIDS. This 11-year old girl received 4 courses of chemotherapy in 2015 (drug & in-patient costs paid by BTMAT). Both parents had died of HIV/AIDS and grandmother had become the chief carer. She was well – and I made sure that she had a secure supply of antiretroviral drugs (AIDS treatment).

On Friday June 3rd we visited a 10-year old girl, also HIV+ve who had been treated for Burkitt’s lymphoma (BL) in 2008. She too was well. I remembered admitting this girl to hospital in June 2008, the year I travelled alone to Cameroon. It was good to see my handwriting in the notes – but better by far to find that both she and her mother were well.

Of 1000 children that we have treated for BL our records show that just under 720 were tested for HIV – with 11 positive results, giving a prevalence of 1.5%. This approximates to that of the general population (children 0-15 years) where the prevalence is 1%.  These HIV+ve children have fared well with chemotherapy.  In our experience HIV does not adversely affect the outcome of treatment for Burkitt’s lymphoma. We will continue to give chemotherapy to HIV+ve children with cancer.

lots of children looking at the camera

Every home visit attracts attention!

Paul Wharin (June 2016)

Related articles