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how to tell a child
Aug 16, 2001

Hello, I am hope someone can help me. My sister has had aids for 8yrs. Out of those 8yrs she has had hardly no treatment (maybe 6months). My problem is we need to tell her son. He is 11yrs old and has no idea how ill his mother is. Where can we go to find a support group for childen that have parent that have aids? Also if you could give me some information on how long someone can live a normal life with no treatment. She has in last few months lost alot of weight. And is having alot of stress due to marriage problems. Thank you!

Response from Dr. Pavia

One of the most dificult issues an infected parent is telling their child about HIV, whether it is just the parent's infection status, or when the child is also infected. Your situation is particularly dificult. This is information that will be best if it can come from the mother, not an aunt or uncle. It may seem to your nephew as if you are betraying his mother, and he may not believe it. If your sister wants her son to know, but can't face doing it alone, perhaps she can do it with you, or with her doctor.

Usually, it is best to feel out what a child knows, or thinks they know. Questions can help set the stage: like, "what do you know about HIV and people with HIV?" and "your mom has been sick a lot lately, have you noticed? What have you thought about it?"

There are a few support groups for children with infected parents, but it depends where you live. Contact the local AIDS foundation and have them help you track down groups. Find out where in your area most of the infected children (and women) are treated, and speak with their case manager. Check out resources on the internet, starting with the links here at the body and at

Your sister will do much better with care. There are reasons she is refusing care - you need to understand these and let her tell you about them. They may be as simple as thinking that all treatment makes you sick and doesn't work, or as complicated as relapsing substance abuse. Maybe she will do things for her kids she wouldn't do for herself.

Good luck, you will need some.


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