May 18, 2021

Babies born with HIV, stigmatized adolescents

Babies born with HIV, stigmatized adolescents

Pediatric HIV is "a rare disease" in Spain after the hardest years in which it was not possible to control transmission in pregnancy, but there is still a small generation of adolescents, about 400, who were born just over a decade ago with him and face the long shadow of the stigma.

It is not the only problem that these teenagers can have, since precisely the fact that there are fewer and fewer children with the virus has meant that less resources have been dedicated to this topic, which may lead to the attention being affected.

According to the pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases at Hospital Gregorio Marañón (Madrid) Marisa Navarro, those babies who were born when HIV was a real epidemic are now young adults who lead a practically normal life, with some consequences in their health because then the drugs were not as effective and accurate.

Those who were born later do have better drugs and are not toxic, which have allowed them to negativize the virus and to be able to lead a totally normal life without consequences for their health.

"In Spain we have seen about 1,300 or 1,400 children with the virus, of which about 15% died and about 600 are young adults and now we are following about 400 in pediatric consultations," explains the pediatrician.

In particular, it indicates that at present "as pediatric HIV is a rare disease in our country", the centers of reference have in their consultations about 20 or 30 at the most and of them, some are over 16 years old ".

Adolescents with HIV take the same drugs as adults but one of the difficulties that arise is the lack of adherence to treatment. "They want to be like their peers and everything that does not mean they do not like it," says Navarro.

"Since they have not had health problems thanks to drugs, they are not afraid of getting sick, they have been good adherents in childhood because parents have been helping and when adolescence comes you believe they will do it alone and sometimes, it fails" , the expert abounds.

But the "main barrier" to which they are found is stigma and, in this sense, the pediatrician considers that it seems incredible that we are in the 21st century and we know how the virus is transmitted and how society rejects many times these people .

"HIV is different and there is a component of stigma and lack of acceptance that is often due to ignorance and makes it difficult for those affected to reveal the situation." Society is not informed that they are normal people, that they can make a living normal ", emphasizes the pediatrician.

In the same sense is pronounced, in statements to Efe, the psychiatrist and psychotherapist of childhood and adolescence José Luis Pedreira, who affirms that, above all, the stigma in these ages is "double".

"On the one hand it is the very stigmatization of the virus and, on the other hand, look at what mother you have that has infected you and, in addition, it always comes from the other, they have a certain social withdrawal but it is the others who put them in evidence", explains the psychiatrist.

They are adolescents who do not have common patterns, nor do they have to have them, according to Pedreira, so the support therapy they receive does not follow a script. "You work with the symptoms they present, how they feel, and the therapy is always about understanding containment and pulling forward as far as you can get," he adds.

The big centers of reference usually have teams of support psychologists to help these kids to face adversity, but hospitals that are smaller and peripheral do not have them, laments the pediatrician of Gregorio Marañón.

The expert also states that adolescents "being in no man's land" are sometimes treated in adult consultations, even at 14 years old, something that usually happens, again, in hospitals that have fewer resources.

"It seems to me very soon, they have not finished the institute, I think it is better to delay the transition and do it as it is done with other chronic diseases, when the adolescent storm passes, the moment of explosion of hormones and difficulties of all kinds, that's why it's better at 18 ", says Navarro.

Berta Pinillos


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