HIV Tests for Infants

Although it can be frightening for a parent to consider, it is possible for some infants to have HIV. In some rare instances, infants who are born to a parent who had HIV will be immune to the virus during birth. However, many more infants are infected with HIV and slowly have AIDS following afterwards, hindering their development and causing their small lives a great deal of pain. The determination on whether an infant should be tested for HIV is conducted by the pediatrician, who is supposed to record whether the infant displays certain symptoms. These symptoms will be checked against multiple conditions, including HIV, and if there is reasonable concern that exists over whether the infant is infected, a test will be conducted for his or her sake.

HIV in Infancy

If an infant displays the symptoms but is tested negative, the infant will be tested again at 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months, to be safe and to prevent the infant from going undiagnosed. In addition, it is also considered a wise decision to have the child tested again in the future when he or she arrives at the age where sexual intimacy is possible. This will help to prevent possible spreading to other individuals, especially if the child never showed any confirmation of the virus but he or she still had the symptoms.

Using the ELISA Method to Test Children

Children are tested through the ELISA test, which draws some of their blood, or through a saliva or similar test, to determine whether the immune system has been sufficiently compromised to denote a potential HIV infection. Although no current test exists to positively identify HIV directly in infants or children, the ELISA test helps to determine the possible existence of the virus, which can then be confirmed through the Western Blot test. These antibodies tests are considered the most effective in determining the existence of HIV.

Alternatives to the ELISA Test

However, there are other methods that doctors may choose to determine if a virus exists within an infant or child’s body. These tests examine for possible viruses rather than examining the antibodies, to determine possible damage to them. These tests are conducted from the first week of life up through the sixth month. In some instances, it is possible a doctor will recommend continuing testing if there is a concern that an infection exists and has not made itself known yet.

These HIV tests include:

  • HIV DNA PCR
  • HIV Culture

Medical Counseling Can Help Explain Testing Process

Many doctors will provide counseling to the family of an infant before a test occurs and after one has been given. This is not only to assist the family in understanding the process of what the test might entail, but it will also help to provide them with more information, should the infant test positive. In addition, doctors will inform families they need the consent of the parents in order to perform the test. In instances where the child is able to make his or her own decision, he or she will be informed of what needs to happen and he or she will be requested to provide signed consent for the test.

Do the Results Have to be Reported?

It is important to note that some states do insist that parents of children who have been tested HIV positive report this to the state. Although doctors are required to notify families of patients that this could occur, in some instances this notification may be written into signed documents and therefore it is in the best interests of the family to be aware that their state requires this. If an insurance company also requires notification, it is important to look into this in case they request a doctor to notify them directly.

Dealing With a Positive Result

If a family has one or more parents who have the HIV virus, they are no doubt worrying enough about those individuals. If they also have to be concerned about your infant, this can add to the stress they are facing financially and emotionally. A doctor will recommend counseling but families may wish to seek their own counselors, who can offer advice on how to cope with the situation the family is facing.

Although finding out an infant has HIV is heartbreaking to any family, the important aspect is to have the infant tested to know for sure. Once the HIV test for infants has been administered and tests results are returned, a family can then take the appropriate action. Taking the right steps by allowing a doctor to administer an HIV test for an infant can help protect him or her later on.

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