The Sad Reality of Pediatric AIDS

HIV and AIDS don’t discriminate or select who will be a victim and who will not. Every day there are more reported cases of the disease and mothers who are unaware of infection could easily pass it on to their unborn babies. The result is that there are numerous young children who are living with the disease. In some countries, where they’re not afforded proper medical care, their chances of making it past the first few years of life are slim. Babies and children suffer the same effects of the disease as an adult, but for children it is especially heartening to see them suffer through the symptoms.

Most cases of pediatric AIDS are a result of transmission from mother to child. The instances of mother to child transmissions can be reduced with proper care and attention.

Reducing the pediatric infections with proper medical care

AZT (zidovudine, Retrovir), is a drug that is given to mothers during the last trimester in pregnancy. If the mother is in advanced stages of the disease where her immune system is compromised the drug will be issued earlier on in the pregnancy. The drug is most effective if the mother has a good CD4 count. A caesarean birth would further reduce the chances of transmission when the viral load is high. Once delivered, infected mothers are asked to refrain from breast feeding the baby since the virus can be transmitted through breast milk. 

Orphaned HIV infected babies

In spite of all the steps taken to reduce mother to child transmissions there are hundreds of babies born every year with HIV. If both parents are infected and eventually pass on, the babies ultimately become orphans. Many of these children end up in orphanages because there is no one to care for them.

In some countries like Sub-Saharan Africa and others, extended family members are sometimes too poor to take on the care of another child. A child that needs medical care might be even more of a burden for the family. In other countries extended families might not want to burden or stigma attached to caring for the child with HIV/AIDS.

Even with the increase in HIV/AIDS education there are still people who are afraid of the stigma and will not accept responsibility for caring for these children.

Children with AIDS is everyone’s responsibility

A number of non-profit organizations, founded by people who care, have done a lot to alleviate the problem of care for HIV orphans. The government also has several institutions that help as well. As new cases are reported every day there is need for more assistance, volunteers and caregivers who are willing to give of their time and money to help out. When all is said and done, it is all our responsibility because whatever impacts the communities we dwell in, impacts our families as well.

Author Byline: Crystal has written this resourceful article on behalf of Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)Chaired by President Bill Clinton.