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HIV and AIDS in Children

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Symptoms of HIV/AIDS in Children

Many babies and children living with HIV are known or suspected to have the infection because their mothers are known to be infected. However, sometimes infection is not suspected until a child develops symptoms. Symptoms of HIV infection vary by age and individual child, but following are some of the more common symptoms: 

  • Failure to thrive, which is the failure to gain weight or grow according to standardized growth charts used by pediatricians.
  • Failure to reach developmental milestones during the expected time frame.
  • Brain or nervous system problems, characterized by seizures, difficulty with walking, or poor performance in school.
  • Frequent childhood illnesses such as ear infections, colds, upset stomach, and diarrhea

As HIV infection becomes more advanced, children start to develop opportunistic infections. These are infections that rarely affect healthy people but can be deadly for people whose immune systems aren't working properly. Common opportunistic infections related to HIV include:

  • Pneumocystis pneumonia -- a fungal infection of the lungs
  • Serious infection due to cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • A condition of lung scarring called lymphocytic interstitial pneumonitis (LIP)
  • Oral thrush or severe diaper rash due to Candida, a yeast infection

 

Treatments for Child HIV and AIDS

Due to improved prevention and treatment, AIDS-related deaths among children around the world are declining.

Treatment for HIV and AIDS is essentially the same for children as for adults: a combination of antiviral medications to keep the virus from becoming resistant to any one drug. However, there are special considerations when treating children. Some HIV drugs are not available in a liquid form that babies and small children can swallow and some drugs cause serious side effects in children.

Even if young children show no signs or symptoms of their HIV infection, doctors may choose to start treatment to improve their general heath and increase long-term survival. Doctors often decide whether to treat based on lab tests for viral load (the amount of virus in a bodily fluid) and the level of white blood cells (immune cells) called CD4 T-cells affected by HIV infection.

 

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