Counsel the mother about HIV testing
The mother of a child classified as suspected symptomatic HIV infection, or possible HIV infection/HIV-exposed, will need to be counselled about both her and her child’s HIV testing. This is likely to be a sensitive subject. Many mothers, and even health workers, might have difficulty discussing HIV. However, HIV is present in the community and the problem will not be solved as long as there is secrecy. You should to discuss HIV issues openly, ask the mother questions, and give appropriate advice about herself and her child.
When you have identified a young infant or child who is in need of HIV testing you should provide the mother with information. Tell the mother that the condition of the child makes you think that HIV may be the cause of the illness. Explain that if the child has often been ill, this can be a sign of HIV infection. You should help the mother to understand that the reason for HIV testing is so that the child can receive treatment that will improve their quality of life. It is important that the child is given antibiotics to prevent infections, vitamin supplementation, regular growth monitoring, prompt treatment of any illnesses and antiretroviral therapy if it is needed. Interventions can also prevent other members of the family from becoming infected.
When you have explained all of this in a clear and sensitive way, you should give the mother time to ask questions. When she has agreed to the test, you should arrange for her to receive proper voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) in the normal way at your clinic.