Why it is important
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HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV touches the lives of children and families in every country in the world. Over 2 million children under age 15 are living with HIV (infected with HIV). Millions more are affected by HIV (not infected but living in families with infected members). An estimated 17.5 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS; more than 14 million of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa. (Latest data available, 2007)
HIV is transmitted through (1) unprotected sex with an HIV-infected person; (2) an HIV-infected woman to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding; and (3) blood from HIV-contaminated syringes, needles or other sharp instruments and from transfusion with HIV-contaminated blood. HIV is not transmitted through casual contact or by other means.
Children are among the most vulnerable to HIV. But they typically receive the fewest services. The disease can progress rapidly in young children. Antiretroviral drugs are used to treat HIV because they restore the immune system and delay progression to AIDS. However, most children infected with HIV do not begin taking these drugs until they are 5–9 years old. This is too late.
Without antiretroviral treatment, half of all babies born with HIV will die by their second birthday.
Although HIV is still incurable, it is a manageable condition. If infected infants and children are diagnosed early, receive effective treatment and take antiretroviral drugs as prescribed, they have a better chance to grow, learn, develop and have dreams for the future.
Families and communities, especially women and girls, are the first lines of protection and care for children living with or affected by HIV. Families should receive the support they need to provide their children with a nurturing and protective environment. Keeping HIV-positive mothers and fathers alive and healthy is vital for children's growth, development and stability. Without the security of the family, children run a greater risk of being exploited and discriminated against.
Adolescents and young people 15–24 years old accounted for about 45 per cent of all new HIV infections among people aged 15 and older in 2007. HIV is more common among adolescent girls and young women than adolescent boys and young men. Life skills education is critical for children, adolescents and young people so that they acquire the knowledge and skills to make healthy life choices.
Governments, with support from families, communities and non-governmental and faith-based organizations, have a responsibility to ensure people's right to information on HIV prevention, treatment and care. They also have the responsibility to ensure the rights of children living with or affected by HIV to protection, care and support. It is important that children, families and communities help stop the spread of HIV.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), is preventable and treatable, but incurable.
HIV is transmitted through unprotected sex with an HIV-infected person; transmission from an HIV-infected mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding; and blood from HIV-contaminated syringes, needles or other sharp instruments and transfusion with HIV-contaminated blood.
Educating all people on HIV and reducing stigma and discrimination should be part of the information, education and communication on HIV prevention, testing and care.
Early diagnosis and treatment of children and adults can better ensure their survival and a longer and healthier life.
Children and families affected by HIV should have access to child-friendly health and nutritional care and social welfare services.
All people living with HIV should know their rights.
1. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). It is preventable and treatable, but incurable. People can become infected with HIV through (1) unprotected sexual contact with an HIV-infected person (sex without the use of a male or female condom); (2) transmission from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding; and (3) blood from HIV-contaminated syringes, needles or other sharp instruments and transfusion with HIV-contaminated blood. It is not transmitted by casual contact or other means.Supporting Information
2. Anyone who wants to know how to prevent HIV or thinks he or she has HIV should contact a health-care provider or an AIDS centre to obtain information on HIV prevention and/or advice on where to receive HIV testing, counselling, care and support.Supporting Information
3. All pregnant women should talk to their health-care providers about HIV. All pregnant women who think they, their partners or family members are infected with HIV, have been exposed to HIV or live in a setting with a generalized HIV epidemic should get an HIV test and counselling to learn how to protect or care for themselves and their children, partners and family members.Supporting Information
4. All children born to HIV-positive mothers or to parents with symptoms, signs or conditions associated with HIV infection should be tested for HIV. If found to be HIV-positive, they should be referred for follow-up care and treatment and given loving care and support.Supporting Information
5. Parents or other caregivers should talk with their daughters and sons about relationships, sex and their vulnerability to HIV infection. Girls and young women are especially vulnerable to HIV infection. Girls and boys need to learn how to avoid, reject or defend themselves against sexual harassment, violence and peer pressure. They need to understand the importance of equality and respect in relationships.Supporting Information
6. Parents, teachers, peer leaders and other role models should provide adolescents with a safe environment and a range of life skills that can help them make healthy choices and practise healthy behaviour.Supporting Information
7. Children and adolescents should actively participate in making and implementing decisions on HIV prevention, care and support that affect them, their families and their communities.Supporting Information
8. Families affected by HIV may need income support and social welfare services to help them take care of sick family members and children. Families should be guided and assisted in accessing these services.Supporting Information
9. No child or adult living with or affected by HIV should ever be stigmatized or discriminated against. Parents, teachers and leaders have a key role to play in HIV education and prevention and in reducing fear, stigma and discrimination.Supporting Information
10. All people living with HIV should know their rights.Supporting Information