November 27, 2009

November 27, 2009
Effect of HIV on the Mental Health of Children

Thanks for joining me for another day in my life. I hope you had a great and Happy Thanksgiving yesterday. Today is Friday and I know a lot of my blog readers are off today but some of you unfortunately have to work.

I am preparing for another trip and all that entails like doing laundry, getting packed, going to the bank and having to say goodbye to my partner in the morning. We are rarely away from each other. But we will be apart for eleven days while I go to do a week's worth of events in Jacksonville for World AIDS Week and George goes on a Bahama cruise with his brother.

Today I would like to talk about the mental health of HIV on children. As many of you know I spend a lot of time working with and helping children with HIV and AIDS. But what about the children who lose their parents or guardians to HIV and AIDS?

Although there is currently an ongoing debate about the extent of the disadvantage faced by AIDS orphans and HIV affected children relative to other children in resource-limited settings, there is a substantial body of evidence demonstrating that AIDS affected children often lack adequate food and shelter, have more trouble staying in school and accessing medical care, and are at high risk of economic exploitation and sexual abuse. Bereavement because of HIV/AIDS and related traumatic experiences during childhood may have long lasting psychological consequences in some children — and may increase a child’s risk for becoming HIV infected and having other serious trouble in life.

However, while funding to provide basic social support for orphans and vulnerable children has increased in recent years, few settings are specifically addressing such children’s mental health needs.

By definition, a palliative care approach aims to alleviate the HIV affected family, physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological suffering.

In this palliative care clinical review, we try to make the case for the need for these services, and show how palliative care not only helps prepare children for bereavement and deal with grief, but also helps the family and community cope with the child’s other needs, addressing factors that increase the risk of mental health complications. In addition, we look at a number of interventions that are being piloted in some countries to manage post traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders that may emerge in orphans and vulnerable children.

This review specifically highlights the problems that are common to being an orphan or vulnerable child in general, and does not address the problems that are unique to children infected with HIV. I hope to address these issues (including ‘disclosure’) in an upcoming my daily blog.

Those are my thoughts. What about yours? Drop me a line and let me know. Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope and happiness.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab