Considing the adoption of a child who is HIV Positive? Congratulations! Many families have chosen to parent a child with this blood disorder and have been rewarded with loving children who frequently live a long and healthy life!
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, a disease which attacks a person’s immune system and leaves them vulnerable to other illnesses. When a person is infected with HIV, the virus enters the body and lives and grows primarily in the white blood cells. These are immune cells that normally protect us from disease. A person who has HIV carries the virus in certain body fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. The virus can be transmitted only if such HIV-infected fluids enter the bloodstream of another person. This kind of direct entry can occur (1) through the linings of the vagina, rectum, mouth, and penis; (2) through intravenous injection with a syringe; or (3) through a break in the skin, such as a cut or sore. Usually, HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse with someone who has HIV, sharing needles or syringes with someone who is HIV infected (laboratory studies show that infectious HIV can survive in used syringes for a month or more- It is very important not to share or reuse syringes for this reason), or infection during pregnancy, childbirth, or breast-feeding (mother-to-infant transmission). HIV is NOT transmitted through food or air (for instance, by coughing or sneezing).
There has never been a case where a person was infected by a household member, relative, coworker, or friend through casual or everyday contact such as sharing eating utensils or bathroom facilities, or through casually touching each other. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging, or a kiss on the cheek. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. No one has ever caught HIV from hugging. Sweat, tears, vomit, feces, and urine do contain HIV, but have not been reported to transmit the disease. Mosquitoes, fleas, and other insects do not transmit HIV. The following may be warning signs of infection with HIV: rapid weight loss, dry cough, recurring fever or profuse night sweats, profound and unexplained fatigue; swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck; diarrhea that lasts for more than a week; white spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat; severe pneumonia; or red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids.
Once diagnosed, the child will need to be monitored for the amount of virus in the blood (viral load) and the strength of his/her immune system (CD4 count, also called helper T cells). There are more than 20 medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of HIV. These medications decrease the amount of the virus in the body with a goal of undetectable virus in the bloodstream. This treatment will be lifelong and is usually called HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Treatment). The most important part of the treatment is to ensure that the doses aretaken on time and without missing any doses—which helps to prevent resistance by HIV to the medication. The goal of treatment is for the viral load to be undetectable and for the immune system to be strong. Follow-up appointments to check CD4 counts and viral loads will be every three to four months after that point.
There is still no cure for HIV or AIDS, but there are medicines that can help slow down the virus. Children with HIV should be closely followed by a doctor.