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HIV Home Care

HIV and Your Child

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV infection means that the body's immune system may not fight off infections very well. Your child's body may not be able to fight back against illness, even a simple cold. Additional care is needed for a child with HIV in order to help him/her remain healthy.

Keeping Your Child with HIV Healthy

One of the best ways to keep your child healthy is to use proper hand washing techniques. Clean hands help keep your child from catching colds and from developing other illnesses. Teach your child to wash his/her hands thoroughly at an early age.

Keeping healthy habits are the best way a child can prevent illness. Other ways you can help your child stay healthy include the following:


    Make sure your child eats the right foods. This will give your child the energy needed to stay healthy.
    • Give your child three balanced meals a day and snacks appropriate from each food grouping (milks, meats, breads, and fruits and vegetables). If you have questions about choosing healthy foods for your child, ask your child's doctor
    • A dietitian can also help if your child has special feeding or eating problems, such as mouth sores, that make eating painful for your child.

    Skin care

    When your child has a cut or sore, the skin is open to germs and can become infected. Taking good care of your child's skin helps prevent infections and may help to keep your child healthy. Consider the following when caring for your child's skin:
    • Prevent injuries, such as cuts and scrapes.
    • Keep the skin clean and dry by washing daily with mild soap and water. Dry your child's skin very well.
    • Rub lotion on the skin to prevent dryness and chapping.
    • Consult your child's physician right away if you notice a rash or unusual sore or cut. A diaper rash or white patches in your child's mouth may require additional treatment.
    • Consult your child's healthcare team if you have any special questions or concerns about your child's skin care.
    • Make sure to apply sunscreen and insect repellant on your child whenever he/she is playing outside with uncovered skin.

    Rest and relaxation

    Being tired and stressed can make your child more likely to become sick. Consider the following to make sure your child is receiving the appropriate rest and relaxation his/her body needs:
    • Normal play is important for your child.
    • Plan rest periods and have a regular bedtime for your child.
    • Make sure your child gets at least 8 or more hours of sleep each night.
    • If your child seems worried or upset, consult his/her social worker or a chaplain.
    • If you have special questions about your child's rest and sleep needs, consult his/her healthcare team.
    • Caution should be used when allowing your child to have pets, or contact with other people's pets. Children should never be left with animals without supervision. Consult your child's physician about any pets you have now, and/or before bringing home any new pets.


    Consider the following to ensure your child's medication needs are being met:
    • Be sure your child takes any medication his/her physician has ordered exactly as prescribed. Pill reminder boxes can be very useful.
    • Make sure you understand how much of each medication you should give your child. Do not be afraid to ask questions if this is confusing.
    • Plan ahead for when you need refills. Do not run out of medications.
    • Consult your child's physician regarding the recommended routine immunization for your child, as well as for other family and household members.
    • If you have questions or problems with your child taking a medication, consult your child's healthcare team.

Preventing HIV Spread

HIV may be spread from person-to-person when there is contact with infected blood or body fluids (semen and vaginal fluid).
  • HIV can be spread:

    • Through sex with a person who carries HIV
    • By sharing drug needles
    • To babies born to mothers who carry HIV
    • To babies breast-fed by an HIV-infected mother
    • To people who receive unscreened blood or blood products that contain HIV
  • HIV cannot be spread by:

    • Hugging a person with HIV
    • Swimming in public pools or hot tubs
    • Sharing a drinking glass
    • Sharing toilets
    • Going to school

Caring for a Child with HIV

You should use universal precautions for any contact with blood, whether your child is known to be HIV-infected or not. These precautions include the following:

  • Wear latex or vinyl gloves when you need to touch the HIV-infected person's blood and body fluids.
  • Clean up blood and body fluid spills with a mixture of bleach and water. Mix 1/4 cup of bleach with 2 cups of water.
  • Wash clothes soiled with blood and body fluids with soapy water. Bleach or non-chlorine bleach may be used to help get stains out. Items that cannot be washed should be put in a plastic bag and thrown away.
  • Do not share razors or toothbrushes with an HIV-infected person.If your child has HIV, you can help him/her to keep from spreading HIV by teaching him/her some basic rules, including the following:
    • Instruct your child to wash his/her hands with soap and water after contact with blood and body fluids.
    • Instruct your child to carry a clean handkerchief in case of a nosebleed or cut. Cover the cut tightly with the handkerchief. Do not allow anyone to touch the blood with their bare hands.

When should my child see his/her physician?

Keeping your child's healthcare appointments is very important. You will also need to know when to bring your child in for care when he/she is getting sick. Your child should see his/her physician if he/she has:

  • A fever greater than 100.5º F by mouth, or 99º F under the arm. If you do not know how to take your child's temperature, consult his/her physician.
  • Shortness of breath or a cough.
  • A change in bowel movements.
  • A skin rash including diaper rash, sores on the skin or in the mouth, or white patches in the mouth.
  • Behavioral changes.
  • Bleeds or bruises for unknown reasons.
  • Severe pain.
  • Ear pain or drainage from the ear.
  • Been in contact with someone who has a contagious illness (especially chickenpox).
Consult your child's physician for more information.