Whilst today’s encouraging news from the USA of an HIV positive child given triple-therapy during primary infection and now “functionally cured” is undoubtedly a step in the right direction and will hopefully be a catalyst for further research, it is also a reminder that HIV is a condition that impacts families as a whole, and will continue to impact this child regardless of whether he or she remains functionally cured.
The impact of HIV on families is profound. Children growing up with family members who are HIV positive are disproportionately vulnerable to a number of poor outcomes, due largely to the fact that HIV and poverty are heavily connected, even in the UK.
An HIV-affected child is a person under the age of 19 who has at least one close family member (such as a sibling, parent or other primary carer) who is HIV+. HIV-affected children are more likely to have poor health and social outcomes compared to non-affected counterparts. According to the UN, children who are affected by HIV are especially vulnerable to:
• Early bereavement (72% of Body & Soul’s young people aged 10-19 have experienced the death of a parent or sibling)
• Early carer responsibilities
• Poor educational attainment
Additionally, international studies have found that children who are affected by HIV are more likely themselves to contract HIV, representing a potential risk group.
As an organisation Body & Sous is often asked why it’s important to provide services to children affected by HIV. Body & Soul is committed to this whole-family approach because it:
• Interrupts the cycle of poverty
• Mitigates the impact of familial HIV
• Establishes health-promoting patterns of behaviour
• Reduces long-term social costs
• Improves social capital and coping resources within families
• Prevents escalation of need (and social service involvement) through early intervention
Whilst we are encouraged by the victories and progress made in response to HIV globally, we must also remember to continue to support the communities and individuals behind the headlines and fight the HIV-related stigma that continues to pervade our societies.