As the covid-19 virus takes the spotlight, another epidemic looms within its shadow ignored. The stigma around HIV has often left people ignorant and vulgar towards its patients. Thus, the efforts battling it, though great, are still insufficient. Moreover, in a new analysis, the UN reported that every 100 seconds, one child gets infected with HIV. Furthermore, more than 300 children and adolescents from around the world die because of HIV every day.
What is HIV?
The human immunodeficiency virus is a virus that infects certain white blood cells of the immune system. Thus, it weakens the patients’ immune system over time, leaving them vulnerable in the face of other serious infections.
Moreover, the virus still faces a lot of stigma due to deep-rooted fear, lack of awareness, and misconception. Back in the early 1980s, people believed that HIV is punishment for certain groups of people and that even the slightest contact can transmit the virus. Of course, science proved the opposite, but the stigma is still there threatening the lives of the patients.
Though the general awareness started to shift, prevention efforts and treatment for children remain very low among the affected population. Moreover, UNICEF announced that in 2019, less than half of children around the world did not have access to life-saving treatment.
Last year, data shows that 320,000 children and adolescents were newly infected with HIV. Moreover, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) caused the death of 110,000 children. “Children are still getting infected at alarming rates, and they are still dying from AIDS. This was even before COVID-19 interrupted vital HIV treatment and prevention services putting countless more lives at risk”, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.
How do children get HIV?
Children can get infected with the human immunodeficiency virus in multiple ways. A woman infected with HIV can, unknowingly, pass it onto their baby during pregnancy, and at birth. A child can get infected during delivery through the transfer of blood or other fluids. The mom can also pass it on after pregnancy through breastfeeding. Another cause is getting in contact with infected blood. Furthermore, sharing needles, syringes, or drug use equipment is also a frequent cause of HIV infection. Lastly and the main source of stigma, HIV can spread through sexual interactions.
It is important to note that the virus does not spread via saliva, sweat, tears, casual contact, swimming pools, telephones, toilet seats, and biting insects (such as mosquitoes).
COVID-19 and HIV services
The UN also stated that the current pandemic has worsened access to life-saving HIV services for children, adolescents, and pregnant mothers everywhere. Thus, experts are fearing that one-third of high HIV burden countries could face coronavirus-related disruptions. Even as the world struggles in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer the ravages of the HIV epidemic”, said Ms. Fore.
Same with any virus, realizing the early symptoms can help save the child’s life. At first, an infant may not reveal any of the obvious symptoms. However, as the immune system weakens, the symptoms may include lack of energy, delayed development, persistent fever, sweating, frequent diarrhea, enlarged lymph nodes, repeated or prolonged infections that don’t respond well to treatment, and weight loss. Other more obvious symptoms may be skin rash, oral thrush, frequent vaginal yeast infections, enlarged liver or spleen, lung infections, kidney problems, memory and concentration problems as well as malignant tumors.
In brief, HIV is yet another problem worsened by the global pandemic. Though there is a stigma around the topic, spreading awareness will help eliminate ignorance. It will also help save lives.
A child infected with HIV every 100 seconds, a new UN report reveals. (2020, November 30). UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/11/1078502AboutKidsHealth. (n.d.). Aboutkidshealth. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/Article?contentid=900&language=English#:%7E:text=Children%20can%20get%20HIV%20from,infected%20needles%20or%20surgical%20equipment.default – Stanford Children’s Health. (n.d.). Stanfordchildrens. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=aidshiv-in-children-90-P02509Facts about HIV Stigma | HIV Basics | HIV/AIDS | CDC. (n.d.). Cdc. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/hiv-stigma/index.htmlOver 300 children and adolescents die every day from AIDS-related causes. (n.d.). Unicef. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/over-300-children-and-adolescents-die-every-day-aids-related-causesPietrangelo, A. (2019, November 8). What You Should Know About HIV in Children. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-in-children#symptoms