Enhancing the health and social wellbeing of children and young people living with HIV

What to Tell a Young Child?

Babies under a year old need testing for HIV more urgently as they are at greater risk than older children, to infections that can seriously harm them.

Infants and young children (under the age of about 11) are not seen as being competent to consent or agree to testing themselves. The health team will need parent/carers permission to test this group of children. If the child is being looked after by the local authority, they will need to consent.

When you are preparing to have your child tested, talk to the person who will be doing the test. Depending on the age of the child, you can work out what the child will be told. An HIV paediatric nurse or doctor will be testing your child, and they have a lot of experience in this area. They will help you work out what explanation you can give your child and if you are not ready to tell them you have HIV, that explanation can be very simple, not mentioning HIV.

They will talk to you about what will happen if the test comes back positive so you are prepared for all outcomes. It is worrying, but knowing a child’s HIV status means that the health team can keep that child healthy and well.

Some things you may tell the child about the test

We need to check your blood to make sure that your body has everything it needs to keep you healthy and well.”

Mummy has a problem with her blood and this can mean she gets a bit poorly; we want to make sure you don’t have the same problem with your blood.”