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CHILDREN, ADOLESCENTS AND HIV/AIDS


Today adolescents of both sexes face a serious risk of HIV infection, which causes AIDS, which leads to death. HIV infection is increasing in adolescents who are heterosexual. When adolescents take certain risks, they are more likely to become infected.
These are the most important facts about AIDS:
  • AIDS is fatal.
  • Teens get AIDS (both boys and girls).
  • Condoms prevent AIDS.
  • You can get AIDS from use of even one contaminated needle or one sexual act with a partner who has HIV/AIDS.
Risk of AIDS is increased by:
  • an increased number of sexual partners.
  • IV drug use; tattoos.
    anal intercourse.
  • any sex (oral, anal or vaginal) without condoms.
  • alcohol and other drug use (sex is more impulsive and use of condoms less likely if under the influence of alcohol or other drugs).

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a chronic illness caused by infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). In 1995, as many as 1.5 million Americans are believed to be infected with HIV. Some of them have AIDS, but most have no symptoms at all, and many do not know they are infected. There are medical treatments for HIV infection, but so far there are no cures and no vaccines.

HIV is transmitted through exchange of certain bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. To produce an infection, the virus must pass through the skin or mucous membranes into the body.

HIV infection is preventable. Knowledge about HIV is an important aspect of prevention. Parents should educate their children and also work closely with schools, churches, youth organizations, and health care professionals to ensure that children and teens receive sex education and preventive drug abuse courses which include material on HIV.

The HIV virus dies quickly when it is outside the human body. It cannot be transmitted by day-to-day or even close social contacts not mentioned above. Family members of an HIV-infected individual do not catch the virus if they share drinking glasses with the patient. There is no known instance in which an HIV-infected child has passed the virus to another child in school.

HIV infection occurs in all age groups. 20% to 40% of the babies born to HIV- infected mothers develop HIV infection themselves. Many of these children die within one or two years, but some live for years, although their development is slowed and they can get many infections.

If a child shows signs of drug abuse or premature sexual activity, these are risk behaviors and are reasons for immediate medical inquiry and intervention. Evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist can be an important first step in helping a family respond effectively to high risk behaviors in their children and adolescents.
 

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