HIV

About HIV infection

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body's immune system, making it difficult to fight off infections and cancers. Without treatment, the immune system begins to fail, putting the body at risk of infection.

HIV is primarily transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse. Fluids which can transmit HIV include semen, vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk.

Most children acquire HIV from perinatal transmission, or transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, labor or delivery. All women should be tested for HIV during pregnancy. Pregnant women with HIV infection can take medications to prevent the transmission of HIV to their baby. In addition, women with HIV infection should not breast feed their infants because breastfeeding increases the risk of HIV transmission by about 15%.

With no treatment, HIV infection can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome), a condition that occurs when the immune system is weakened and can no longer fight infections and diseases. It is important to know that today, with treatment options easily available, patients living with HIV infection can expect to live an almost normal life span.

The Children’s HIV Program provides the following services:

  • Intensive case management and medical care for children and youth with HIV infection living in Wisconsin, northern Illinois and the upper peninsula of Michigan, in collaboration with American Family Children’s Hospital
  • Intensive case management for youth ages 18-25 years old with HIV infection
  • Intensive case management services for pregnant women with HIV
  • Intensive case management services for women with HIV infection in Milwaukee and northern Wisconsin in collaboration with the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Health Department and the AIDS Resource Center of WI (ARCW)
  • Help testing children after their mother is diagnosed with HIV
  • Complex HIV testing and diagnosis for pregnant women
  • Post-exposure prophylaxis for children and youth after a sexual assault

For children and youth up to 18 years old

For the past 20 years, the Children’s HIV program has cared for hundreds of children, youth, pregnant women and women with HIV and their families. We work with the HIV Program at the American Family Children's Hospital in Madison to care for all Wisconsin children with HIV.

Program social workers and nurses work closely with each patient’s primary care provider to ensure that as much care as possible is provided close to home with a familiar provider. We know that care is easier when it is close to home.

Our nurses, social workers and medical providers make home visits and visits to other medical providers to help patients receive coordinated care.

Intensive adherence support

Program nurses, social workers and physicians work closely with patients to help them learn how to take their medications. We help patients pick a time to take their medicines and a safe place to store them. We help patients fit taking medications into their daily routines.

Regularly talking to patients after they start taking medications helps us guide them through any problems. When side effects occur, we are there to assist patients and their families so that medication plans are not interrupted. We make understanding and learning about medications easy by giving patients cards with pictures and names of their drugs.

Transition to adult care services

We work closely with adult care providers to transition youth with HIV to adult care providers at a time that works best for them and their family.

We usually transition in stages. We may start by first transitioning from a pediatric to an adult primary care provider. Once comfortable in the new adult primary care setting, we move their HIV-specific care from a pediatric to an adult HIV specialist.

Our nurses and social workers work with the youth after this transition. We continue to work with the youth until our assistance is no longer needed. This timeframe is different for every young adult making this transition.

The best HIV/AIDS treatment, 24/7

Staff from the Children’s HIV Program are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For pregnant women with HIV

If you are a pregnant woman with HIV, Children’s nurses and social workers will work with your obstetrician and HIV physician to help you receive the best treatment.

These clinical team members go to your OB and HIV appointments to coordinate care across all settings. We teach the staff of the hospital as well as the mother and baby’s medical care providers about the care needs of you and your baby. Our goal is to have pregnant women walk into a delivery room with well-educated staff, facilitating the best delivery experience possible.

Advancing care and treatment options for everyone

Nurses and social workers at Children’s Hospital teach the community about HIV infection and its treatment. We teach staff from OB/GYN offices, hospitals that care for pregnant women, primary and specialty care providers and community-based organizations such as day care facilities and schools. We help everyone become comfortable and skilled in caring for children or mothers with HIV.