Hesperian Health Guides

Children have the right to care

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All children, whether they have HIV or not, need healthy food, clean water to drink, loving attention, and a caring community to grow up and be healthy. Providing this can be challenging for all parents, whether or not the family is affected by HIV. If the child has HIV as well, she (and anyone else in the family who has HIV) also needs ART treatment as soon as possible to stay alive and healthy.

HIV treatment is a second chance

Many people fear HIV, because they remember a time when HIV infection could not be treated. They watched their family members, friends, and neighbors slowly die, often in the prime of life.

a woman speaking
I was pregnant when I found out I had HIV. At first I was scared, but now I’m grateful I found out. I take ART, am well, and care for my baby as she grows.

But now, antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines developed in the last 20 to 30 years let people live a long, healthy life with HIV. With care, community, and support, HIV need not make people suffer and die.

If you have HIV, you may have to make changes in your life, habits, and thoughts in order to live a healthy life. Getting enough sleep, reducing stress, eating nutritious foods, and having good times are good for anyone, but especially for a person living with HIV.

Living a healthy life may also mean changing how your think about yourself and your relationships. You may have to learn how to stand up for yourself, say no to unfair demands, and care for yourself as much as you are expected to care for others. Support groups can help you know what you need and find the strength to make changes.

a man speaking
I was diagnosed with HIV nearly 20 years ago, and nobody knew much about it. I was very sick and scared, and thought I would never feel hopeful again. One day, I started talking to the virus in my body. I said “OK, virus. Neither of us is going to go away any time soon. We have to learn how to live together.” After that day I felt at peace, and was able to hope for the future and fight for my life by getting on treatment. My deal with HIV keeps me alive.
a woman speaking
When I found out I was pregnant, I married my boyfriend, even though he hit me. After I found out he gave me HIV, I still stayed. Before my second child was born, I realized I wanted my daughter’s future to be better than the life I was living. So I left him. I started taking ART and eating healthy food. Now, I counsel other women — and their daughters — on how important it is to be assertive.

If you have children who may also have HIV, getting them tested to confirm a diagnosis and then beginning their ART is necessary if they are to survive to live a long, healthy life. This book can help you learn how to do that.

When you and your family learn what HIV is and how to manage it, you can better care for yourselves and others in your community. You can also help eliminate the stigma around HIV often caused by people who are not aware of the advances in HIV treatment. Many still do not know that HIV is something you can live with, and does not easily pass to others.

This page was updated:15 Jan 2020