Infants may contract the virus by mistakenly sharing needles with an infected individual.
To avoid this, make sure that whenever your new-born is taken to any hospital for vaccination or any other check-up, only clean, new, and sterilized syringes are used for injection purposes.
The virus may also get passed on to the child from the mother, either during the pregnancy phase or even through breastfeeding.
However, there are medicines that prohibit the transfer of the virus from HIV-positive pregnant women to the new-born.
In rare cases, children may also get infected by being sexually infected with an abuser who may have the disease.
There are a number of misnomers that exist regarding how HIV spreads. Typical secretion or fluids from your baby like urine, drool, spit-ups, vomit, faeces do not transmit the virus. It does not spread through sneezing, hugs and handshakes, coughs, mosquitoes, toilet seats etc.
However when dealing with a cut or scrape, since there is direct involvement with blood, one should always wear gloves and maintain caution.
Some common symptoms that your baby is suffering from HIV are:
- Appears to be sick without any apparent reason
- Poor weight gain and poor appetite
- Mouth infections
- Enlarged lymph nodes, liver or spleen, brain
- Nervous system problems
- Onset of numerous infections like pneumonia etc.
- Due to lower immunity, a child may be more prone to childhood infections
Diagnosis of the HIV infection should first be carried out during the pregnancy stage. This is imperative to avoid transmission of the disease to the unborn child. More so when the expecting mother knows that she is HIV-infected, or has had multiple sex partners previously and has never been tested for the virus before.
Once the baby grows up, different tests can be used. Some may look for antibodies to the virus, some for the proteins that coat the virus, or the some for the presence of the virus itself. Eliza test is a common test often used.
Treatment to fight off HIV has come a long way in the last few years. If left untreated HIV develops into AIDS over time. They work in two spheres:
- Inhibit the virus’s growth, preventing or delaying the onset of AIDS and allowing people with HIV to remain free of symptoms longer.
People on proper periodic medicine that fight HIV can live like normal human beings for the entire life, by ensuring care and caution
- Reduce transmission of the virus from an HIV-infected mother to her child, effectively checking the spread of the disease in the long run
Doctors would, in most cases, recommend a ‘cocktail’ of different drugs. This regimen is called HAART (highly active anti-retroviral therapy) and must be taken round-the-clock. The fact that medicines to fight off HIV need to be taken absolutely without fail, everyday, often for the rest of the life, cannot be overemphasized. Or else, the virus can resistant to the administered drugs.
An HIV-infected mother can receive the following treatments:
- Before the baby’s birth: Antiviral treatments given during pregnancy can help prevent HIV transmission to the baby
- At the time of birth: Antiviral medications given to both the mother and newborn to lower the risk of HIV transmission that can happen during the birth process (which exposes the newborn to the mother’s blood and fluids). Formula feed is encouraged over breastfeeding
Unlike other illnesses and diseases, HIV does not come with an expiry date. There is no vaccination as of now or sure-shot medication to completely eradicate the virus from the body. So the best one can do, is to keep the virus under check and control, so that HIV does not develop into AIDS.
Medication is a life-long process, and the infants’ health condition must be constantly monitored by doctors to see how the virus is faring inside the body. If they get immune to the drugs, then the medication must be altered at the earliest. Also, much more care must be exercised to keep the baby healthy, as even the slightest infections can become life-threatening with less immunity in life.
Also psychological counselling needs to be provided to your child if he gets detected with the infection. There is a lot of stigma and social questioning that exists regarding the disease, which needs to be answered and cleared so that your child does not suffer any kind of social pressure.