Impact of AIDS on Children
IntroductionAIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is one of the most terrible and devastating diseases of our times, which brought millions of deaths all around the world. It is caused by a virus, called HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus can be transmitted through transfusion of blood, during sexual intercourses, by sharing a needle when having injection, or from mother to child.
Biologically, HIV attacks so called CD 4 + T-cells of human body’s immune system, and then progressively damages or destroys them. Therefore, it drastically decreases or terminates the ability of human organism to resist infections (which are called “opportunistic infections”) and certain types of cancer. That is why people, who have AIDS, may get infected by such bacteria and viruses, which usually do not cause any disease for healthy people. And very often in such cases prognosis for AIDS carriers can be life-threatening.
AIDS was first reported in summer 1981 in the USA as an unknown disease, called “manly cancer”. For the first year about 1600 cases were diagnosed, which resulted in 700 deaths. In 1983 American Center for Disease Control introduced the term AIDS. In 1984 Dr. Robert Gallo in collaboration with the specialists of Institute Pasteur of France discovered HIV as a cause of AIDS. As the amount of deaths was increasing (in 1987 there were 71,000 of registered cases of AIDS and 40,000 of lethal cases), medical scientists started intensive research work, directed on creating a cure for AIDS. (Cichocki)
Unfortunately, there is still no cure for this disease, so numerous biology and medical specialists continue their studies and experiments. It was discovered that AIDS can not be transmitted by usual contacts, like sharing the meals or towels, using the same phone or swimming pool, doing handshake, etc. Nowadays the problem of prevention of further spread of this terrible epidemic is extremely topical, especially in the regions of Sub Saharan Africa, Caribbean and Asia, where the amount of infected people exceeds 8% of the population, and the number of deaths runs into millions. (Cichocki)
Children and AIDS
Of course, HIV/AIDS affects children. According to UNIADS report, in 2004 about 2.2 mln children had HIV, but this data may not reflect the real situation due to substantial lack of HIV monitoring devices in African regions, where 80% of HIV affected people live. (Berry) This epidemic endangers health and well-being of thousands of children, especially in developing countries. This is direct threat to normal development of our society.
In the majority of cases, children get infected with AIDS from their mothers during pregnancy, giving birth or breastfeeding. Also, many children can get infected through blood transfusion or (rarely) when sharing the needle of same medical injectors.
Treatment of Children Affected by AIDS
Treatment and taking care about such children require a lot of courage and efforts. The main medical treatment of children affected by AIDS is prevention of getting “opportunistic infections”. Due to extending variety of medications for such infections, the amount of children’s deaths caused by these diseases (first of all, pneumonia) is recently drastically decreasing.
It is very important to take all necessary precautions against transmission of HIV from affected children to other people. Also, it is quite necessary to inform the members of surrounding community (like school teachers or parents of close friends) about such disease of the child. Of course, children affected by AIDS must always remain under intensive supervision of pediatricians and other special doctors.
It is extremely hard and tragic to live with HIV, especially for a child. That is why it is vital to pay attention on numerous psychological moments when treating a child affected by AIDS. Parenting and taking care about such children is a real challenge, because it is very difficult to create good environment for proper emotional, social, moral and psychological development of these children.
The key point of this topic is to find out correct flexible strategy and behavioral approach to a child affected by AIDS. Some children need extra attention and care, but some of them do not want to be differed from their peers. Besides, parents or teachers of such children must always keep in mind excessive vulnerability of such children and their unusual mental reactions on issues of friendship, separation, loss, self-esteem, etc. The most spread problems of such children are difficulties with socialization and suicidal thoughts.
Two Principal Problems of This Issue
Social help and concern about the problem of children with AIDS have to develop in two main directions. First of all, it is necessary to make everything possible to prevent further spread of this infection on children and young people. This may include helping women to avoid HIV infections, helping children to avoid its medical transmission and transmission through drugs or sex. Such work has to be carried out on multileveled basis: personal, in families, or in the community in general.
The second one is helping to those children and teenagers, who are already infected. It is a very serious issue, because overwhelming majority of such children is orphaned and vulnerable, or they as being grown up in families below the poverty line. Recently many different international organizations, like UNICEF, are arranging special programs and networks of care, aiming to protect and satisfy the needs of children affected by AIDS.
Epidemic of HIV/AIDS does not slow down its expansion. This terrible disease considerably reduces the flow of social progress of our society and reverses the years of global development in health, economy and social life. Children and young people are in the main risk group. Specialists estimate that thousands of children and teenagers are getting infected every day, so they may not have possibility to become adult in good health, to form proper family and to give life to new healthy generation. That is why the problem of children with AIDS is one of the most important and critical for our society.
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