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Fears About HIV Transmission in Families With an HIV-Infected Parent: A Qualitative Analysis

November 19, 2008

Advances in antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission have made it possible for more HIV-positive parents to have children. But few studies have examined transmission fears that might remain for these families and how they address such fears, noted the authors. The current study describes transmission-related fears in families with an HIV-infected parent.

From March 2004 to March 2005, researchers conducted in-person interviews with 33 HIV-positive parents, 27 children ages nine to 17, 19 adult children and 15 family members or friends who cared for the children and/or parents. Interview transcripts were analyzed for transmission-related themes.

Many of the families identified at least one HIV transmission-related fear, including specific fears related to blood contact, bathroom items, kissing/hugging, and food. Families addressed these fears by educating children about the ways HIV can be transmitted and establishing rules to minimize transmission risk in the household. HIV-positive parents also expressed concern about acquiring opportunistic infections from a sick child.

"Many of the fears experienced by HIV-infected parents and their children were based on misconceptions about modes of HIV transmission," the researchers concluded. "Pediatricians and others who treat these children may be able to offer counseling to allay fears that family members have about household transmission of HIV."

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Excerpted from:
10.31.2008; Vol. 122; No. 5: P. e950-e958 (doi:10.1542/peds.2008-0390); Burton O. Cowgill, Ph.D., M.P.H.; Laura M. Bogart, L.M., Ph.D.; Rosalie Corona, Ph.D.; Gery Ryan, Ph.D.; Mark A. Schuster, M.D., Ph.D.

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