It is startling that in 2012 it’s possible to ignite hysteria and spread ignorance about risks of transmitting HIV in public places. A daycare in Northland, New Zealand has removed a four year old boy from their Center because he is HIV positive. According to the NZ Herald, just 48 hours after the mother told the daycare that her son is HIV positive the Center prevented the child from returning until they establish a care plan.
However, the NZ AIDS Foundation and senior health officials have stated that there is no need for a “care plan” because the level of the virus in the child’s blood is so low it undetectable and cannot be transmitted, NZ Hearald reports. Nonetheless, the Center has responded by sending letters to all the parents that their children have been exposed to HIV, resulting in hysteria across some communities. TV 3NEWs Campbell Live reports that now parents at a school attended by the child’s older siblings are “raising fears about contamination even though the siblings don’t have HIV!”
Campbell Live confirmed on 9 May that neither the Ministry of Education or senior health officials have been able to persuade the daycare that there is no risk to any of the children or staff as a result of contact with the infected child. In an interview with the NZ AIDS Foundation executive director, Shaun Robinson explained that professionals with the AIDS Foundation and the child’s doctors have attempted to meet with the daycare and explained that there is no risk. ”[The center has] been very well informed…[but have] chosen instead to act completely irresponsibly…It’s a case of willful ignorance – not just gross ignorance but willful ignorance – which is leading adults to essentially bully and pick on a 4-year-old boy.”
The Day Care has now taken legal action against the NZ AIDS Foundation over allegations of expelling the child from the Center. Meanwhile, the boy has been accepted into another Day Care and will commence education in July 2012.
Whether allegations of expulsion are true or false, the point is that the community responded in fear and exclusion of the boy and his family. In responds to this story of ignorance and discrimination, we’ve complied facts about HIV/AIDS transmission that any parent and child care professional should know. Knowledge is power. If everyone understood these basic facts there should be no alarm.
BASIC FACTS: Caring for Children with HIV/AIDS
How is the virus transmitted? 1) Congenital and perinatal transmission is the most common way children are infected. This is when HIV is transmitted from the infected mother to her child during pregnancy, labor, or delivery (Child Care Law Center, 2005: 3). According to the CDC, transmission rates have dropped due in part by HIV testing of pregnant women, antiretroviral drugs, and cesarean delivery before the onset of labor. However, perinatal exposure still occurs.
2) Blood transfusions have infected children. According to the American Red Cross, today the risk of receiving HIV positive blood through a blood transfusion is about 1 in 2,000,000.
3) HIV can only be transmitted through certain bodily fluids (blood and semen). HIV cannot be transmitted from saliva, nasal mucus, tears, urine, feces, sweat, vomit or breast milk. In the child care setting, blood is the main type of bodily fluid which requires standard and universal precautions.
4) There are no reported cases of HIV transmission through daily household contact, like food preparation, eating, hugging, kissing, sharing toys, diapering. Even biting has never resulted in HIV transmission.
A child with HIV or AIDS poses virtually no risk to the health of other children or adults, especially when standard precautions are taken on a regular basis with all children. Without taking these simple routine precautions, children are far more likely to contract blood-borne or fecal-borne diseases like hepatitis B and hepatitis C, pinworms, giardia, and common diarrhea than HIV (Child Care Law Center, 2005: 4).
Read the Child Care Law Center pdf for further information about universal infection control measures, child care legal responsibilities to admit and care for a child with HIV/AIDS and issues of confidentiality regarding the child’s status. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention‘s website has extensive pediatric information on HIV/AIDS.
Image credit: OneTwo