HIV/AIDS Children Display Poor Reading and Speech Skills During Research by Master’s Graduate
Master’s research among a sample group of children with HIV/AIDS in the Free State has found that a high number of participants displayed poor reading and verbalisation skills.
UKZN Master’s in Optometry graduate Mr Nashua Naicker’s study titled: “An Investigation of Saccadic Eye Movement Abnormalities in Children with HIV/AIDS on Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART)”, was conducted on 128 children from the central Free State (Bloemfontein, Botsabelo and Thabanchu) and the southern Free State (Koffiefontein and Petrusburg).
It aimed to explore a relationship between saccadic eye movement abnormalities and central nervous system (CNS) deficits caused by HIV/AIDS.
‘HIV rapidly progresses to the CNS and affects certain brain areas that mediate eye movements. Due to this overlap, a manifestation of eye movement dysfunctions through basic clinical testing may indicate CNS impairment or a declining neurologic state due to HIV,’ said Naicker.
The study provided a platform for other health-care professionals to explore other non-invasive and pragmatic ways and to standardise tests tailored for specific population segments in detecting HIV-related dysfunctions in children in mainstream clinical practice.
The study revealed that a high number of children manifested with poor reading and verbalisation skills during testing. ‘This has led to questions of whether testing norms and scales developed in America and Europe are applicable to South Africa’s cross-ethnic population in diagnosing problems in our paediatric population’, said Naicker.
‘We need to establish reliable screening tools so detection of early deficits and treatment interventions can be implemented sooner to promote longevity and improve the quality of life for children living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa,’ he said.
Naicker said working with children living with HIV/AIDS during his research process had been rewarding. He found it spiritually uplifting, knowing that he may have made an impact on the lives of the children by putting something as simple as a smile on their faces.
‘My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the children who participated in the study and to those who may have passed on during the writing of this thesis.’
Naicker is an Assistant Director Optometrist with the Free State Department of Health and a Lecturer on a joint establishment portfolio at the University of the Free State based at the Department of Optometry of the National District Hospital (Universitas Annex) in Bloemfontein.
He was appointed Programme Co-ordinator for the Bachelor of Optometry undergraduate programme last year.
His special interest field is Binocular Vision: ‘I manage the Paediatric and Binocular Vision Clinic at the National District Hospital. My vision is to improve the current landscape of optometric services in the province and train professionals who can provide secondary and tertiary optometric care in the public sector.
The two major domains of his work involve Higher Education and training and public sector eye care services.
‘I was fortunate to get into lecturing quite early in my career as I had a passion for academia and developing students into professionals. I have also been privileged to be involved in public health optometry as it is most rewarding to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives by providing scarce optometric eye care services to those who are unable to access private care in South Africa,’ he said.
‘My family is very pleased with my achievement and it was through their support and the continuous encouragement of my research supervisor, Ms Vanessa Moodley who is the Academic Leader in the Discipline of Optometry at UKZN, that I persevered to see this thesis through to completion.’
Naicker, originally from Chatsworth in Durban, graduated from the former University of Durban-Westville in 2002 and the following year became the first full-time Optometrist appointed by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.
- Nombuso Dlamini