Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is a viral infection that progressively destroys certain white blood cells and causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is caused by the viruses HIV-1 and HIV-2 and, in young children, is typically acquired from the mother at the time of birth.
Signs of infection include slowed growth, enlargement of lymph nodes in several areas of the body, developmental delay, recurring bacterial infections, and lung inflammation.
The diagnosis is based on special blood tests.
Children who receive anti-HIV drug therapy (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) can live to adulthood.
Infected mothers can prevent transmitting the infection to their newborn by taking antiretroviral therapy, feeding their newborn formula rather than breast milk, and, for some women, undergoing a cesarean delivery.
Children are treated with the same drugs as adults.
There are two human immunodeficiency viruses:
Infection with HIV-1 is by far more common than infection with HIV-2 in almost all geographic areas. Both progressively destroy certain types of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are an important part of the body's immune defenses. When these lymphocytes are destroyed, the body becomes susceptible to attack by many other infectious organisms. Many of the symptoms and complications of HIV infection, including death, are the result of these other infections and not of the HIV infection itself. HIV infection may lead to various troublesome infections with organisms that do not ordinarily infect healthy people. These are called opportunistic infections because they take advantage of a weakened immune system. Opportunistic infections may result from viruses, parasites, fungi, and, unlike in adults, sometimes bacteria.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the most severe form of HIV infection. A child with HIV infection is considered to have AIDS when at least one complicating illness develops or when there is a significant decline in the body's ability to defend itself from infection.
Only about 1% of the people infected with HIV in the United States are children or adolescents. Since the AIDS epidemic began, about 10,000 cases have been reported in children and younger adolescents. In 2011, an estimated 192 new cases were diagnosed in children under 13 years of age.
Although the number of HIV-infected infants and children living in the United States continues to decrease, the number of HIV-infected adolescents is increasing. The number is increasing because children who were infected as infants are surviving longer and new cases are developing in adolescents, particularly in young men who have sex with men.
Worldwide, HIV is a much more common problem among children. About 3 million children have HIV infection. Each year, about 330,000 more children are infected and about 230,000 children die. In the past few years, new programs created to deliver antiretroviral therapy (ART) to pregnant women and children have reduced the annual number of new childhood infections and childhood deaths by 10 to 15%. However, infected children still do not receive ART nearly as often as adults.