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HIV Services Mental Health Program


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In the Washington, DC, area the number of children and families living with HIV and AIDS remains high, with case rates for children and adolescents well above the national average. Thousands of these patients receive comprehensive care through related programs and clinics at Children’s National Medical Center.

Children’s services include clinical care for patients and support those who help care for them. The HIV Services Mental Health Program currently provides psychological counseling to more than 300 children, adolescents, and young adults between ages 2 and 24 and families affected by HIV and AIDS.

Personal Patient Care
At Children’s National, we care for the whole person, taking into consideration the emotional effects of illness in addition to the physical symptoms. Children and adolescents with HIV often experience a variety of mental health issues including:
Anxiety
Behavioral problems
Bereavement
Depression
Difficulties with adjustment
Post-traumatic stress symptoms
Relationship problems
Substance abuse

Because emotional and behavioral problems are common among patients with HIV, patients are routinely screened for areas of concern, and our specialists discuss recommendations for additional care with families.

How We Can Help

The Mental Health Program staff aims to help youth cope with their medical condition and manage their concerns. Mental health support services are provided on both an outpatient and inpatient (medical) basis. In addition to general mental health referrals, patients and families may be referred to the program for a number of pediatric issues including:
• Adjustment to hospitalization
Adjustment to illness
• Diagnosis disclosure and education 
• Medication adherence
• Pill swallowing

Depending on the needs of the patient, treatment may include individual therapy, family therapy, parent training, and/or group therapy, psychiatry consultation, and medication.

Children and teens with HIV also undergo routine developmental and neuropsychological evaluations to monitor cognitive development and signs of HIV-related problems. We discuss the results with families and provide a report that details the findings of the evaluation. School advocacy, educational planning, and consultation are offered when needed to enhance the well-being of patients.
 

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