CHILDREN, ADOLESCENTS AND HIV/AIDS
Today adolescents of both sexes face a serious risk of HIV infection, which is the cause of AIDS. AIDS is a chronic and most often fatal disease. Despite growing understanding and awareness, HIV infection is a serious threat to both heterosexual and homosexual teens. When adolescents take certain risks, they are more likely to become infected with HIV and develop AIDS:
These are the most important facts about AIDS:
Risk of AIDS is increased by:
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a chronic illness caused by infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Millions of Americans are believed to be infected with HIV. Some of them have AIDS, but most have no symptoms at all, and many do not know they are infected. Despite significant advances in available medical treatment for HIV, there are no definitive cures or vaccines that can prevent the disease. New treatments have enabled many people with AIDS to live longer. AIDS can be prevented by avoiding risk behaviors.
HIV is transmitted through exchange of certain bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. To produce an infection, the virus must pass through the skin or mucous membranes into the body.
HIV infection is preventable. Knowledge about HIV is an important aspect of prevention. Parents should educate their children and also work closely with schools, churches, youth organizations, and health care professionals to ensure that children and teens receive sex education and preventive drug abuse courses which include material on HIV.
The HIV virus dies quickly when it is outside the human body. It cannot be transmitted by day-to-day or even close social contacts not mentioned above. Family members of an individual infected with HIV will not catch the virus if they share drinking glasses with the person. There is no known instance in which a child infected with HIV has passed the virus to another child in the course of school activities.
HIV infection occurs in all age groups. Twenty-five percent of the babies born to untreated mothers infected with HIV develop HIV infection themselves. Many of these children die within one or two years, but some live for years, although their development is slowed and they can get many infections. Mothers-to-be with HIV must get special treatment to try to prevent transmission of the virus to their fetuses. New treatments for pregnant women may reduce the transmission of the virus to fewer than one in ten babies of HIV-positive mothers
Drug and/or alcohol abuse, premature and/or promiscuous sexual activity are serious risk behaviors. Evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist can be an important first step in helping a family respond effectively to high risk behaviors in their children and adolescents.