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Pediatric AIDS

What is Pediatric AIDS?

Pediatric AIDS, (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The term pediatric AIDS applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection.

Reports tell us that at least 90 percent of babies who have AIDS contracted it from their infected mother. Mothers may, or may not, be aware that they have AIDS. There are a few cases of babies who contracted AIDS through breast milk. There are some babies and children who contracted AIDS because they were sexually abused by someone who was HIV positive, or who had full-blown AIDS.

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Those mothers who learn that they are HIV-positive while pregnant may benefit by having certain drugs given to them during their pregnancy. These drugs may block the transmission of the virus onto the fetus. Delivering the baby through caesarean may also reduce the baby’s risk of contracting AIDS.

Children who are not born HIV positive, or with AIDS, may get it from a parent or care giver. If the parent or care giver is an IV drug user or engages in unprotected sex, they are opening their entire family up to the HIV virus, which causes AIDS.

What is HIV?

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. The HIV virus initially disables and/or destroys T4 cells (the immune system's key infection fighters) without causing symptoms. By killing or impairing the T4 cells, HIV progressively destroys the body's ability to fight infections and certain cancers.

Can Pediatric AIDS be Treated?

Treatment for pediatric AIDS is aimed at halting the progression of AIDS. Antibiotics are generally given in the first months of life to keep the baby from acquiring pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP). PCP is an infection that is AIDS-related. Antibiotics can also keep other bacterial infections from developing.

Doctors will also vaccinate babies against many common illnesses to prolong their health. There are experimental vaccines which are being studied specifically for pediatric AIDS patients. Many pediatric AIDS patients will have repeated injections of gamma globulin. This is administered through an IV in an attempt to help the child’s body ward off infections.

What You Can Do

Children who have pediatric AIDS need special love and attention. Their lives are bombarded with repeated trips to the hospital and doctor’s office, and they need to be made to feel that they are as normal, special and loved as other children.

Assure all extended family and friends that they will not catch AIDS from the child, unless they come in contact with his or her bodily fluids. Casual contact, such as hugging and playing does not pose a risk to anyone.

Children with pediatric AIDS can attend day care and school just like other children. They should not be hidden away, and they should be given the chance to experience life like any other youngster.

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