28.3.2 Providing psychosocial support to children infected with HIV
Beyond disease management, children infected with HIV face a number of problems that impact upon their social, educational and emotional development and wellbeing. These children require psychosocial support, which includes a range of interventions that enable individuals and families to cope with the overwhelming feelings that result from their experiences with long-term disease and death. Providing psychosocial support may include addressing self-esteem, adaptation to illness and its consequences, communication, social functioning and relationships — these topics will be discussed in more detail in Study Session 30 (Providing Palliative Care for people living with HIV.)
Health facility-based and home-based stimulation of children improves their mental, social and emotional development. Remember, encourage family members to play and talk with the children. This will help provide an enriching and stimulating environment that will greatly enhance and support the children’s psychosocial development.
For those children who are also malnourished, combining psychosocial stimulation with food supplementation has been shown to produce better outcomes and growth for the children.
Children’s development will flourish when they form secure attachments to a responsive caregiver. Furthermore, children need to be provided with psychological (relating to both the mental and social aspects of life) and emotional support within their family or through other caregivers, and to be able to communicate openly about their own or their family member’s condition, so as to give relief to deep fears that may be difficult to share.
You may need to provide psychosocial support to HIV/AIDS orphans (children who have lost their parents through HIV/AIDS).
For caregivers to provide this support to children, they must themselves be provided with psychosocial support. This can be done when you do home visits, or through community-based organisations or peer support groups. It is important for you to ensure adequate linkage of families with these groups, and to pay attention to the psychosocial needs of the whole family on each visit.