3.9. Children and HIV
HIV can be transmitted from mother to child in both the prenatal period (through defects in placental barrier), and during birth, when a child is exposed to maternal blood (vertical transmission) or during breastfeeding. Such factors of mother-to-child transmission are called vertical transmission. In the case of prevention and appropriate treatment of the mother, the risk of transmitting HIV to a child is reduced to zero.
Now scientists know how to prevent the HIV transmission from mother to child. Women with HIV give birth to healthy children without HIV infection. According to the World Health Organization, the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission without receiving therapy accounts for 20-45%. If preventive measures are taken, the risk drops to 1%, and in some countries (Cuba, Thailand, Armenia, etc.) there are no newborns with HIV infection.
Usually, HIV infection develops in children in more intense form because of the developmental characteristics of the child's body and immature immune system. HIV infection in children can develop in the same way as in adults without any symptoms, but more often one or more of the following symptoms may appear: increased lymph nodes, both mental and physical underdevelopment, frequent colds, etc.
In general, testing for HIV, viral load, as well as antiretroviral therapy in children differs little from adults. It’s worth paying attention to side effects in children: generally they are of a clearly pronounced nature. Parents are encouraged to monitor the timely administration of medications, thereby complying with medical advice and prescribed treatments.
Health professionals recommend that the diagnosis of HIV infection in a child be reported as soon as possible to avoid major changes in the child’s worldview. This will help to relieve feelings of anxiety and insecurity, increase self-esteem and sense of security, and ensure the normal development and socialization of the child. Contrary to stereotypes, conversations between parents and children about HIV are fruitful, and most children are ready to receive missing information. When the positive status is disclosed, the child should adhere to the basic rules: it is recommended to discuss complex subjects several times, listen to what the child says, strengthen his self-esteem, and teach him how to say "no", especially in the areas of safe sex and narcotics use.
Depending on the age of the child, conversation can be structured in a certain way, so that the child can accurately understand the information. The message should not be intimidating, and at the same time be understandable and worthy of the child’s attention.
In most countries of the world, laws and regulations forbidding discrimination against people living with HIV, including children, have been now enacted. These provisions include the right of parents and children not to disclose the diagnosis when enrolling in educational institutions, and the staff’s duty to keep the child’s status confidential. Thus, children attend regular kindergartens, schools and other educational institutions on an equal footing with normal children.