The State Of Black Children Living With HIV

African American father and son holding handsSince the onset of the HIV/AIDS  epidemic in the early 1980s, close to 15,000 children have been infected with HIV, and approximately 3,000 children have died in the United States from it. Nearly 95 percent of the children younger than the age of 15 acquired the virus from their mothers – either prior to birth, during birth or while breastfeeding.

Fortunately, due to medical advances, the number of children acquiring HIV/AIDS has significantly decreased. In 1995, 483 African-American children were diagnosed with AIDS, and by 2013, there were less than 100 cases.

Although the rates are trending downward, Dr. Bande Virgil, a pediatrician in Columbus, Georgia says the United States could be doing better.

“We are making some headway as far as HIV/AIDS transmission from mother to child on an international level, but our country is falling behind other developed nations when it comes to this regard – even in 2017.”

Despite the improvements, an HIV/AIDS diagnosis for a child can still cause stigmatization within many social domains. Miseducation and fear within families and other support systems can cause children to keep their status to themselves.

Over time, such isolation can cause a child to behave erratically and distance themselves from others. More than half of children infected during pregnancy have some form of psychiatric disorder, including ADHD and anxiety disorders. Children may not only have psychiatric difficulties, but may also have difficulty adjusting to the school setting.

“If the child experiences significant complications and missed days of school, this can make learning at an appropriate pace very difficult,” explains Virgil. “It may be hard for these children to bond with their classmates due to absences.”

Fear of stigma may also prevent parents from seeking help or obtaining other forms of academic assistance for their child.

In some cases, the child is not even aware that he or she has HIV. A recent study illustrated that only 7 out of 50 children were informed about their own HIV status. In some instances, parents delay disclosing their child’s HIV/AIDS status due to…