Hesperian Health Guides
What happens next
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If you or your child has HIV
Seek the treatment and support you or your child need to stay well. The sooner you start taking ART, the better. See Chapter 11.
If you are pregnant and have HIV, treatment will protect both you and your developing baby from illness. A midwife or other health worker can help you talk with your family about ways to stay healthy, where to have the birth, and how to feed your baby after it is born. More on how to prevent HIV spreading to a baby is in Chapter 7.
Other than ART, everything needed to keep a person with HIV healthy — such as nutritious food, safe water, and good friends — will improve the health of everyone in your family. See Chapter 10 to learn more about the care at home that will help you and your child stay healthy.
If you are struggling to talk with your child about HIV, discuss your concerns with a counselor or other caregivers who have children with HIV. Talking about HIV with your child can happen slowly, over many months and years. For now, let your children know they can ask you questions and tell you how they feel. More information on talking with children about HIV is in Chapter 5.
Health workers can help by being patient and encouraging, allowing caregivers or children to express their feelings, and offering to meet again within a few days. Help a caregiver meet others in the community who are affected by HIV. Caregivers with more experience often share this experience as volunteer educators — this is a good way to help people learn over time how best to care for their children.
If you or your child does not have HIV
A negative test can strengthen a person’s resolve to stay negative. Discuss your questions with a health worker and learn more about how to avoid being infected. If you do not feel able to talk with your partner about HIV, ask if there is someone who can help you. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the best way to protect both your baby and yourself is to stay HIV negative. Continue to see your midwife or health worker regularly during your pregnancy, and get tested again later. See Chapter 7 for more on preventing HIV infection.
Other help and support
You may need particular kinds of support because of having HIV. You may need help to have enough food, get your work done, resolve problems with relatives, find transport to health care, keep children in school, and sometimes even to feel part of the community. Other people in your community no doubt have these needs too, and you can form groups to help each other. See Chapter 15 for more on how communities can support each other when children and families are affected by illness or other difficulties.
Parents and caregivers need to stay strong and healthy to help children grow strong and healthy. Taking care of yourself, taking your own medicines, eating as well as possible and getting enough sleep, and having friends to talk with and work with can all help caregivers to be able to care for children with HIV.