HIV Possible Exposure, Child

Your child may have had an incident that caused you to wonder whether your child is at risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. HIV is a virus that can weaken the body's natural defense system (immune system). HIV can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS makes it very difficult for the body to fight infection because it destroys important blood cells.

Being exposed to HIV does not mean your child will get the virus. It depends on how your child was exposed. The chance of your child getting the virus from an object found, touched, or eaten is very small.

Contact your caregiver right away if you think your child was exposed to HIV-infected blood or body fluids. In some cases, medicines can be given to help prevent your child from getting HIV.

CAUSES

HIV is present in the blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk of people who are infected. HIV is not present in saliva, tears, or urine unless infected blood is also there. You cannot get HIV by kissing on the lips or touching unless blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk are exchanged. HIV is not spread by spitting, insect bites, or casual contact.

Young children do not always understand the risks of touching or placing objects in their mouth or on their skin. Items that may contain blood or body fluids include:

  • A needle from the ground.

  • A used tampon.

  • A used razor.

  • Pre-chewed food from someone else.

These and similar items could be contaminated with HIV if an infected person used them. However, the risk of HIV spreading this way is very low.

The level of risk varies based on the type of exposure.

  • The chance of your child getting HIV through dried blood or bodily fluids on a found object is very low. This is because the HIV virus can only survive outside of the body for a few hours.

  • If your child's incident involves biting (with broken skin) and open sores, the risk may be slightly greater. However, HIV is rarely spread in this way.

  • If sexual contact is part of the incident, the risk is greater.

Your caregiver will determine if the risk of HIV is low or high.

TREATMENT

  • Your caregiver will perform a thorough history and physical exam to evaluate the risk of HIV or other infections.

  • If a wound is present, your caregiver will clean the affected area with water and soap.

  • If your caregiver determines that the risk of exposure to HIV is significant, treatment may include:

  • HIV antibody blood test, to see if the virus is in the blood.

  • Antiviral medicines. These medicines are available to help protect your child from HIV after an exposure has occurred. This is called postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). For these medicines to work, they should be started as soon as possible after the exposure.

  • A combination of medicines. This helps the body resist the HIV infection. These medicines are strong and only given to children who are at high risk of getting HIV from the exposure. They are taken for approximately 28 days and have some side effects.

Finding out the results of your test

Ask when your test results will be ready. Make sure you get your test results.

PREVENTION

The spread of HIV in young children can be reduced by:

  • Knowing if you or someone your child knows has HIV.

  • Taking precautions to prevent spreading HIV. This includes keeping personal hygiene items out of reach, treating wounds and sores, and keeping your child away from used needles.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Practice the prevention steps above.

  • Help your child to avoid incidents where HIV exposure is possible.

  • When your child is old enough, teach him or her about safe sex and a healthy lifestyle to avoid HIV, other infections, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

  • If your child is prescribed medicines, give him or her all medicines as directed.

  • See your caregiver for follow-up exams and testing as directed.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have questions or concerns.

  • Your child develops any side effects from medicines prescribed.