AIDS in children
Created by Payal Updated on Dec 01, 2017
In 2010 there were more than 3 million children living with HIV around the world (source- UNAIDS).
A one in seven person who dies of AIDS is a Child.
More than 16 million children under 18 have lost one or both parents to AIDS around the world.
More than 2 million people, children and adults, are affected with AIDs in India.
Though a majority of these figures are from sub Saharan Africa, large part of these figures comprises Indian children. Currently more than 2 million people, children and adults, are affected with AIDs in India alone. The problem is so large worldwide that while more than 1000 children are newly infected by HIV virus every single day, it is estimated that more than half of them will die of AIDS due to lack of treatment itself. Add to it the millions of children around the world who have lost one or both parents to AIDS and who suffer indirectly due to AIDS and you would realize that the world is facing a problem which should be faced and dealt with immediately.
Though treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS in children is possible but it may not be happening due to the lack of investment from the governments as well as the stigma and discrimination these families face in our culture.
How do children get HIV?
1. Mother to child transmission: 9 out of 10 AIDS affected children are infected from their mother during pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding. In countries that have invested in HIV treatment, this transmission is rare and even if it occurs there are ranges of treatments available for the survival of the child.
2. Blood transfusion: Transfusions with infected blood and unsterilized needles are the main reason a child can get infected with the HIV Virus. Unsafe medical practices that are avoidable can eliminate such cases to a large extent.
3. Drug use through injections: While our society and the police brand our street children as criminals, this is also preventing them from getting education and treatment for HIV infections, which arise from using injectable drugs. Sharing needles (along with unprotected or forced sex) are highly prevalent among 10-19 year olds living on the streets.
4. Sexual transmission: In developing countries like India, an estimated 6% boys and 11 % girls are sexually active by 15 years. Even in some communities in the urban area, girls are married off at a very young age, sometimes as young as 13 or 14. So even if this does not form a major proportion of infections, it is still avoidable with condom use, sex education or with better legislations in case of forced sex.
HIV treatment for children
It is important that children affected with the HIV virus get an early diagnosis and continued proper treatment. To prevent mother-to-child transmission, usually antiretroviral drugs are given before birth and during labor. Safe breastfeeding is promoted. Adopting safer medical practices and screening donated blood for viruses is a must to prevent blood transfusion related spread of the virus. Children who are living with the virus also have the added problem of getting infected with mumps, pneumonia, chickenpox or tuberculosis. While most children get these illnesses, aids infected children have more frequent illnesses and they also get prolonged and more dangerous considering their immune system is at the weakest.
Children, who are diagnosed and treated, respond well and have a high chance of survival but in poorer countries, there is a prevalence of stopping treatment after some time, usually due to the prices charged by diagnostic centers.
Family, friends and community are also essential to provide support and protection to children. Family is important for educating children to protect themselves against the disease and also spread awareness on how to handle the disease or behave with a person infected with the disease. Children need good and cheap testing centers and caring and treatment facilities to support monetary and emotional development once they are diagnosed with the disease.
HIV and AIDS education for children:
Apart from treatment, the only other way of reducing the menace of HIV and AIDS is through awareness and education. The government and NGOs try to reach children through their schools, media or through peers. Educating children about HIV and AIDS serves two purposes. One, it helps them avoid or reduce situations where they can get infected by the virus. Even if they are engaging in sexual activities, they know how to stay protected. The other thing is, it reduces the social stigma associated with AIDS and AIDS patients, which is most important for having them treated properly. It teaches them that discriminating against patients does them more harm than good. It will also help them get tested and treated if they suspect themselves in the risk of infection with HIV.
Youngsters need information on the transmission ways and methods and how they can protect themselves. Teaching children that sex and drugs is just “wrong” might increase the stigma associated with diseases like AIDS and also imply to young minds that the people living with the disease are “immoral”. While delayed initiation in sex, or abstinence is an important fact that needs to be promoted, children should also know about the use of condoms.
Information and education should be accurate, widespread and effective, in order to reach a wider audience of children in the country. While media has provided a widespread reach to educate youngsters, the message needs to be repeated enough so that children can understand the message and take steps to ensure proper protection.
UNESCO says that basic information and education about reproduction should be begun from as early an age as 5. These may be made age appropriate and interesting for kids to slowly grow and move to more awareness without being misinformed. They also say that education about HIV, its infection and the use of condoms can be begun at the age of 9. AIDS education is a must at the ages of 10-14 as at this age they are at a definite risk of infection. Both scientific and social education is essential. So with medical and biological information, it is also important for them to understand the concepts of sexuality, drug use, relationships and safe sex.
India has a National AIDS Control Program, which aims to train teachers and peers to educate students both inside and outside of schools on all aspects of HIV/AIDS. Under this initiative, 112000 schools and 288000 teachers were trained. Young people should be well informed in areas where AIDS is less prevalent, in order to keep it that way.
While it a sensitive topic and has to be dealt with great care, it is proven that proper sex education has led to reduction of risky behavior and promoting healthy sexual behavior. Thus it is also our responsibility that our children have proper information, awareness and knowledge whether or not it is part of their curriculum in schools.
Here’s hoping for a healthier and Happier India.
Image source -http://pinterest.com/redpumpproject/fighting-hiv-aids/
| Dec 01, 2017
amazing and a comprehensive blog supported by figures.. AIDS should not be avoided as a topic of discussion in schools. infact, more and more information on this should be disseminated to do away with myths and bring out facts. it's important for our children to know about it's causes and prevention.
| Jan 09, 2013
Very informative! Taking about HIV is still a taboo and educating children is a great way to create awareness. Thanks.
| Jan 09, 2013
An important but hardly talked about issue. Creating awareness is perhaps the most important and simplest way to protect our children. Great blog, thanks.