First Generation of Infants Born with HIV Now Face the Trials of Adolescence, New York Times Reports
The New York Times, as part of its continuing "AIDS at 20" series, today profiles teens who have lived with HIV since birth, a group that is the "first generation" of children born with HIV to reach adolescence. Data from the CDC show that before the mid-1990s, children with HIV lived to an average age of nine years. However, new antiretroviral treatments have extended the lifespan of HIV-positive children, who now live on average to the age of 15. According to the Times, there are currently 2,400 teenagers who were born with HIV, and "thousands" more will turn 13 over the next five years. Dr. Edwin Simpser, chief medical officer for St. Mary's Healthcare System for Children in Bayside, N.Y., said, "As long as they take their medication, the vast majority [of these teens] should live. How long they are going to live, we don't know." Although the lifespan of children born with HIV has increased, HIV-positive adolescents still encounter many HIV/AIDS-related medical and social problems. Some children are often sick and miss a lot of school, some are "sheltered" by their families and others lead "restricted social lives." Other children may have neurological problems related to HIV, including HIV-related brain damage. Dr. Joseph Church, director of the Children's AIDS Center at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, said that more than half of the HIV-positive children he sees have cognitive problems, including learning disorders or emotional disturbance. Some of these problems are related to their HIV infection, but some are also the result of being products of pregnancies that "weren't optimal," Church said (Villarosa, New York Times, 11/20). The full article is available online at the New York Times Web site.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.