Children with AIDS

Children with AIDS

  Autor NN Team Data: 08.08.2008

Children with AIDS
AIDS is a chronic infectious disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). As it attacks and destroys the cells of the immune system, HIV prevents the human body from fighting against viruses, bacteria, fungi which cause diseases. The sick person is more exposed to cancer and other opportunistic infections such as meningitis or pneumonia, while a healthy body will resist to them. The virus and the infection are known as HIV, and the AIDS term (the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) defines the disease in the last stages of infection. 

Nowadays, AIDS is pandemic. In 2007 there were 33.2 millions of infected people worldwide. In the same year, about 21.1 million people among which 330.000 were children, died of AIDS. 

Here is our subject. The child with AIDS. There is a large number of children getting infected every year, throughout the world. The most cases appear in underdeveloped countries, but the more developed Western and East- European countries are not completely away from such tragedies. As they are not treated, thousands of children die every year because of HIV. More than that, other millions of children are indirectly affected by the disease which kills their parents, brothers and affects the communities. 

Despite the severity of this situation, many people still think that AIDS is a disease which affects only the adults. If it is transmissible through sexual intercourse or through the syringes used by the drug addicts, it doesn't mean the children cannot be contaminated. There are other transmission ways too. 

The transmission from mother to child is the most common case. A woman who is infected with HIV may transmit the disease to her child during pregnancy, at birth or during breastfeeding. In addition, many children are exposed to the virus in the hospital. Sometimes the needles are not sterile and the transfused blood is infected. In the developed countries these issues have almost been removed, but there still are new cases every year. In Romania, over ten thousands babies and children have been infected between 1987 and 1991 through transfusions of untested blood or through infected needles. 

Although this case is rare, big children are sometimes infected through sexual intercourse or through drugs consumption. In countries such as Africa, there is a myth according to which AIDS may be cured through a sexual intercourse with a virgin. That's why many girls at early ages are sexually abused by infected men, and get infected on their turn. 

Once infected, the child risk of developing AIDS, a disease which might be fatal if not treated. In children, the treatment is meant to slow the disease evolution and allows them to live a longer and healthier life. Nowadays, many infected people live decades after contamination and live quite normal lives, provided that they receive the proper treatment. Unfortunately, 90% of the infected children worldwide don't receive the right treatment or at all. 

Comparing to the adults, children have a weaker body, they are not able to understand what is happening to them and to protect themselves, so that they are more exposed to opportunistic infection. The childhood diseases which are successfully defeated by a healthy child, are a real danger for children with HIV. The mumps or the chickenpox are too severe diseases for a weak immune system and last longer in children with AIDS, are more frequent and don't respond to the treatment. Not to mention the opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis or pneumonia which may kill a child with AIDS. 

Another big problem of infected children, both in Romania and other countries, is the exclusion from communities. At school, at kindergarten, at the playground, the sick children are rejected by their colleagues of the same age and by the parents of their colleagues. In such cases, the healthy people should be taught to understand that HIV is not transmitted through touches, through same cutlery or even kiss, but only through direct contact with the blood, sperm or vaginal discharges of the infected one. If we all would understand this, infected children would get over the trauma of their disease much easily and would be able to live normal lives, at least socially. 

But it would be even better to avoid new infections. We already know how to protect ourselves, the adults: with condoms and attention at the used syringe needles. Same things we can do for our children too. At every vaccine or treatment with injections, the needle must be unsealed in front of the parent and the child. Many parents even choose to go to the doctor with a syringe bought from the drug store. Regarding the use of condom, the healthy sexual education made at home by the parents, may help the teenager stay out of lots of problems, from unwanted pregnancies to HIV. 

Not least, the infected women should know that they can give birth to perfectly healthy children nowadays. The anti-retroviral treatment given to the infected pregnant woman and to her newborn, may avoid the transmission of HIV from mother to child. 

Read the English version of this article: Children with AIDS