Risks of Living with HIV

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Living with HIV

HIV-positive children are at greater health risks due to a number of factors, including geographic isolation, insufficient treatment monitoring, lack of caretaker knowledge about appropriate administration of anti-retroviral medication (ARVs), and poor linkages with the local health system. Many children consequently suffer from delayed treatment initiation, lack of growth monitoring for ARV dose adjustments, and limited drug adherence support. The outcomes are serious to the health of these children and include treatment default, drug resistance, undiagnosed opportunistic infections, and death.

First line pediatric treatment for HIV/AIDS is now available in China. However, should these children not adhere to treatment and develop treatment resistance, these drugs will no longer work and they will require 2nd line drugs. These drugs can cost up to ten times the price of first line drugs, and are largely unavailable in China. The risk of defaulting on first line drugs is very real and treatment adherence is therefore literally a matter of life or death for many of these children.

In addition to the inherent health risks, HIV-positive children living in these areas face many additional hardships as a result of their status. Despite mandates in Chinese law guaranteeing free education to children orphaned by AIDS, many are not permitted to attend regular schools due to fears among parents and educators about contracting the disease. The children face intense social stigma: other children refuse to play or stand near them, often taunting them. Many HIV-positive children witnessed one or both parents suffer and die from the very disease that they live with.