HIV

Author: 
Adoptive Families Association of BC
Source: 
AFABC Special Needs Database

Definition
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a viral infection that can gradually destroys the immune system if left untreated. With Anti Retroviral Drugs (ARV's), the progression of HIV can be stopped and prevent Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the final and most serious stage of HIV, which causes severe damage to the immune system. With proper care and treatment, an individual can live a full and healthy life, with undetectable viral loads of HIV.

Causes
IV is transmitted in three main ways: sexual contact, IV drug use through the sharing of dirty needles, and mother-to-infant (during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding).

HIV has never been transmitted through normal family living conditions. It cannot be transmitted through casual contact. HIV is not found in sweat, urine, feces, tears, saliva, or snot. It is found in blood, semen and vaginal fluids, and breastmilk.

Today, HIV is considered a chronic but manageable disease much like Type II Diabetes (though diabetes cannot be transmitted). If a pregnant mother does not receive medical treatment there is approximately a 30% chance she will transmit the virus to her child. By treating mother and infant, doctors can reduce that rate to approximately 1%.

In household environments, HIV is not transmitted, provided those living with HIV are getting proper care and treatment, and everyone is practicing basic Universal Precautions.

Treatment
Children who are HIV-positive, and receive medical treatment, are expected to live a normal lifespan. Medications called ARVs (Anti-RetroViral) can mean the difference between life and death for individuals living with HIV.

HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy) is the combination of three or more ARVs in a daily drug regimen designed to treat HIV. Through the use of HAART treatment it is possible for a patient’s viral load to become undetectable in laboratory tests. Having an undetectable viral load does not mean a person is cured. It simply means the medications are working to prevent the HIV virus from replicating within the body.

Currently there is no mainstream cure for HIV, though medical research has provided exciting advancements, and a few cures, and it is believed that a mainstream cure or vaccine is on the horizon.

Challenges
At this point, there are some side affects from medication for some individuals. These can usually be alleviated with proper treatment, or changing of medication. The biggest challenge is often the social/stigma aspect. People living with HIV can still experience an immense amount of stigma, which can create shame and secrecy. 


Thank you to Tova Grindlay for helping us update the above information!

This resource is by no means intended as a substitute for a doctor's advice or diagnosis. Any concerns you may have with regard to your child's health and development should be discussed with a professional in an appropriate field.