Aids and child development

The first of December marks world AIDS day every year. Many people are unaware that HIV/AIDS has a major impact on child development particularly in the infancy period.
The first 24 months are the most critical in development as this is the time when cognitive and motor milestones are developed.
When a child is infected with HIV it is difficult to identify the particular effect HIV has on the brain. Majority of children who are HIV positive have neurological problems but there is not always a cognitive and motor deficiency present.
Onset of these deficiencies varies from 3 months to 2 years.
Developmental milestone deficiencies can include impaired growth, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, poor memory and poor visual spatial abilities. This occurs because once HIV is acquired, it invades the central nervous system as early as 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) is known to improve the lives of children receiving the treatment and therefore is commonly used. According to government policy all the HIV positive mothers must be on HAART therapy to reduce the chance of transmission from mother to child.
Mothers that are not aware of their status are encouraged to breast feed from 0 months to a year with the child being on nevirapine for the year. If the child is not on nevirapine the rate of infection increases greatly.
Accompanied with HAART there are a number of other methods of intervention such as maintaining a healthy nutrition status and receiving early therapy intervention.
Therapy identifies and screens for delayed developmental milestones in babies and children. These can include early communication and motor skills. Early intervention is key as it enhances achieving normal development for the child. They monitor monthly developmental milestones for the first year, in the second year they see children every 3 months, and in the third year they encourage nursery school attendance to promote age appropriate development.
If you have any questions regarding HIV and child development please contact the occupational therapy department on 056 816 2154. (Source: Journal of AIDS and clinical research.)

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