HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV attacks the body's immune system. The immune system is the body's defense against infections. Over time, HIV weakens the body’s ability to fight serious infections and some cancers. When this happens, HIV infection becomes AIDS. AIDS can be life threatening, but it is also a preventable disease.
HIV spreads from person to person when infected blood or sexual secretions, such as semen, enter the body. Men, women, and children of all ages can get HIV. You can get infected with HIV through:
HIV is not spread through the air, in food, or by casual social contact such as shaking hands or hugging.
Babies can get infected before they are born or from the breast milk of an infected mother.
A baby born with HIV often has no signs of HIV infection at birth. When infected babies are 2 to 3 months old, they may start having problems, such as:
A child with HIV tends to get more infections, and get sicker than other children from common infections like the flu.
Teens who get HIV may not have symptoms at the time of infection. It may take years for symptoms to show. During this time, they can spread the virus to others without knowing they have the virus.
When symptoms start, they are usually the symptoms of the other diseases that are able to attack the body because of a weak immune system, such as:
HIV is diagnosed with blood tests.
Medicines can slow down the disease, but they are not a cure. Your child may need to have blood tests every few weeks or months to see how the virus is affecting his or her body and how well the treatment is working. Treatment for HIV/AIDS may include treatment or prevention of other infections and tumors.
To work properly, anti-HIV drugs need to be taken at the right time and in the right way. This can be hard for children. Kids may not want to take bad-tasting medicines or may not want to take medicines in front of other people. Talking with your healthcare provider and support groups can help.
Some immunizations may be different for babies or children with HIV/AIDS. Children whose immune systems are very weak will not be given live virus vaccines, such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), varicella (chickenpox), rotavirus, and flu vaccines that use a live virus.
If your child has HIV or AIDS, here are some things you can do to take care of your child and help prevent problems.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:
Ask your provider:
At this time, there is no vaccine to prevent HIV and AIDS. For now, you can help to protect your children from HIV by doing these things:
You can get more information from: