How Does HIV Affect Child Development?
Children with HIV infection are at risk of developmental and behavioral challenges. Despite advances in HIV prevention and AIDS treatment elsewhere in the past two decades, HIV infection and AIDS are still significant problems in developing countries. The reasons for this difference are complex and multifactorial. They include the higher background prevalence of infection among adults in some communities in developing countries.
What Causes HIV in Children?
The virus can be transmitted during pregnancy, childbirth, and breast milk. About 12 to 14% of infants not infected at birth acquire HIV infection if they breastfeed from an HIV-infected mother. Transmission by breastfeeding is more likely in mothers who have a high level of virus in their bodies, including those who acquired the infection during the period of breastfeeding.
Symptoms of HIV in Children
- Slowed growth and delay of maturation
- Enlargement of lymph nodes
- Recurring diarrhea
- Lung and kidney infections
- Enlargement of the spleen or liver
- Fungal infection of the mouth
How Does HIV Affect Child Growth?
Abnormalities in growth and metabolism are common in children infected with HIV. Poor growth was among the first manifestations of HIV infection to be recognized in children and had a significant effect on short-term survival. Initially, children with HIV often suffer from the same infections as children without HIV. This is one reason why the diagnosis of HIV infection in young children can be difficult.
Those with HIV and AIDS have common illnesses such as diarrhea, respiratory infections, and malnutrition. But, children born with HIV are more vulnerable to infections. Death rates are also high in children with HIV and AIDS. Between 50 and 75 percent die before the age of five years. With this, infected mothers are given treatment before and during pregnancy to reduce the risk of passing the infection to the child.
How to Avoid Getting and Passing HIV Infection?
- Use treatment as prevention. If you’re living with HIV, taking HIV medication can keep your partner from becoming infected with the virus. Using TasP means taking your medication exactly as prescribed and getting regular checkups.
- Use post-exposure prophylaxis if you’ve been exposed to HIV. If you think you’ve been exposed to sex, needles, or anywhere else, contact your doctor or go to the emergency department. Take PEP as soon as possible to reduce your risk of becoming infected with HIV.
- Use a new condom every time you have sex. Use a new condom every time you have anal or vaginal sex. Maintaining protected sex prevents STDs. Note that multiple sex partners can also increase your risk of infection.
- Consider preexposure prophylaxis. PrEP can reduce your risk of getting HIV from sex. Your doctor will prescribe these drugs for HIV prevention only if you don’t already have an HIV infection.
- If you’re pregnant, get medical care right away. If you’re HIV-positive, you may pass the infection to your baby. But if you receive treatment during pregnancy, you can significantly cut your baby’s risk.