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Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in Children: Care Instructions


HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. This makes it hard for the body to fight infection and disease. Medicines can reduce the amount of virus in the body and improve health. If HIV isn't treated, it usually causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is the most severe stage of the HIV infection.

HIV attacks and destroys a type of white blood cell called CD4+ cells, or helper cells. These cells are an important part of the immune system.

A child who has HIV has AIDS when one or both of the following are true:

  • The child's CD4+ cell count is very low.
  • The child gets certain infections or cancers that are usually seen only in people who have problems with their immune system. Examples include pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with medicines.
  • Be sure your child gets the vaccines and medicine needed to prevent infections such as pneumonia or tuberculosis.
  • Learn more about HIV and AIDS. This helps you and your child be active in health care decisions.
  • Join a support group. These groups let you and your child share experiences and seek support from other children and caregivers in the same situation.
  • Encourage your child to eat healthy foods. This can help keep the immune system as strong as possible.
  • Help your child be active. This can reduce stress, increase energy, and lift your child's mood.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has severe shortness of breath.
  • Your child has chest pain.
  • Your child has symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your child's face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of the body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of a new or worse problem from HIV, such as:
    • A fever.
    • Coughing.
    • Diarrhea.
    • Skin changes.
    • Bleeding.
    • Confusion or not thinking clearly.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter X113 in the search box to learn more about "Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in Children: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.