What is hiv in children?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in children: Overview

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body's natural defense system. Without a strong immune system, the body has trouble fighting off disease.

HIV often causes flu-like symptoms in children soon after they get infected. They might have yeast infections of the mouth. They may also have repeated bacterial infections and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin.

Your doctor can prescribe antiviral medicines that can slow or stop the damage to your child's immune system. Most of the time, the medicines can prevent AIDS, which is the most severe stage of HIV infection. Treatment can help your child live a long, healthy life.

What are the symptoms of HIV in children?

Symptoms of HIV in children can include delays in growth or development. Other symptoms include a yeast infection of the mouth (thrush) that won't go away, repeated bacterial infections, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin. There may also be an enlarged liver and spleen.

How is HIV in children treated?

HIV is treated with a mix of medicines. The treatment your doctor prescribes depends on a few things. These include when and how your child was exposed to the HIV virus. They also include whether your child is already infected.

If your baby was exposed to HIV during pregnancy or birth, they need to be treated right away. Treatment can keep your baby from getting infected.

If your child is already infected with HIV, they can take medicines called antiretroviral therapy (ART). This treatment can reduce the amount of virus in your child's body. Taking ART medicines for the rest of their life can prevent AIDS and help your child stay healthy.

How can you protect your baby from getting HIV?

  • Be safe with medicines. Give your child medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Be sure your baby gets all the checkups and tests your doctor recommends.
  • If you have HIV, work with your doctor.
    • Keep taking your HIV medicine. It's important to stay healthy so you can take the best possible care of your baby.
    • If you would like to breastfeed your baby, talk to your doctor. How safe it is depends on how well your HIV is controlled.

How is HIV in children diagnosed?

HIV is diagnosed with blood tests. If the virus is found, the test is positive. If HIV is not found (negative), your child may need a repeat test to be sure the results are correct.

Children who are at risk of being infected with HIV are tested as early as possible. This includes:

  • Babies and children who were exposed to HIV during pregnancy or birth.
  • Children who were exposed to HIV after birth.
  • Children who go to the doctor with HIV-like symptoms.

How can you care for your child who has HIV?

  • Give your child their medicine exactly as directed. Try not to miss any doses. The medicine may not work if you miss doses. Talk to your doctor if you have problems with the schedule. Your doctor wants to help.
  • Make taking their medicine a part of your child's daily routine. For example, have your child take the medicine with breakfast or before brushing teeth. You can also put the week's pills in a pillbox, post reminders on calendars, or use sticky notes. Try sending your child reminders as text messages. Or set smartphone alerts.
  • Talk with your doctor if your child has trouble with the medicine. The doctor may be able to prescribe a medicine in a form that is easier to take.
  • Make sure that your child eats healthy foods, gets plenty of exercise, and has all recommended vaccines on schedule.
  • Join a support group. These groups can be a good place to share information, tips, and feelings.

How do children get HIV?

Almost all children who have HIV got exposed to the virus during pregnancy or birth. The virus can spread through breastfeeding too. Older children and teens may get infected by having unprotected sex with someone who has HIV. Another way is by sharing infected needles while using drugs or steroids.

What is human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in children?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body's natural defense system. If a child becomes infected, the virus destroys certain white blood cells. If too many are destroyed, the child's body has trouble fighting off disease.

The most severe stage of HIV infection is AIDS. Most of the time, treatment can prevent AIDS and help children who have HIV live long, healthy lives.

HIV in children: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has problems from the medicine.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child is coughing.
  • Your child has diarrhea.
  • Your child has skin changes.
  • Your child is bleeding.
  • Your child is confused or not thinking clearly.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if your child has any problems.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.