Most instances of childhood AIDS and HIV occur in sub-Saharan Africa, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen elsewhere. However, in Africa, it happens to be the leading cause of death for teens and preteens. The virus that leads to AIDS, HIV, damages the immune system, leaving the body unable to fight some cancers and all infections.
When it comes to HIV in children, one symptom is a failure to thrive. This means that they don’t gain weight as other children do or they don’t grow as they should. Another symptom might be diarrhea. When it comes to diarrhea with HIV Imodium may not be effective. The child also might not reach developmental milestones or be able to do things that other children of the same age might do. There may also be issues with the nervous system and brain, causing things like not doing well in school, trouble walking, and seizures.
Most of the infants and children with HIV were infected by their mother and this might also be considered to be a birth defect. They may have contracted it in utero, during the process of birth, or even from breastfeeding. Women who get tested and stay with their treatment when they discover they’re HIV positive can greatly lower the risk of passing the virus on to their children. When it comes to preventing HIV-positive children, this is the best way.
Children in communities that are affected by AIDS, and who’ve lost family members or parents to the disease, are more susceptible to the infection. They might not have caregivers, the ability to fight for their rights, or even access to schools.
Children might also be infected through rape or sexual abuse. In a variety of countries, it’s culturally acceptable to marry children, and young girls might contract HIV from their older husbands, and this means they can also pass it to their children. The younger the child is when they become sexually active the higher their chances will be of being infected with HIV.
In Eastern and Central Europe, the use of injected drugs spreads the HIV infection through young people who happen to be living out on the streets. In some countries, children as young as 10 are sharing needles for these drugs.
Transfusions of blood that’s HIV positive or injections that utilize infected needles could also infect children in poorer countries. Western European countries and the US have put medical safeguards in place to combat this issue.
Growing Up HIV Positive
Adults need to have conversations with their children about this disease in a way that fits with their age in an effort to make it a bit less scary. Children need to know that their illness isn’t their fault and that they need to take their medicine every single day. They should also know that they aren’t alone.
Emotional, financial, and social support for the entire family is critical, especially when they live in areas that don’t have an abundance of resources.