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Many HIV-infected parents worry needlessly about transmitting HIV to their children

More than one-third (36 percent) of HIV-infected parents fear transmitting HIV to their children, and 42 percent fear catching an infection from their children, according to a recent study. These fears, which seemed to be based on the faulty notion that saliva could transmit HIV, limited some parent-child interactions, particularly among Spanish-speaking Hispanic parents. For example, parents rarely withheld interactions that did not involve the potential exchange of saliva, such as hugging and kissing on the cheeks. However, more than one-quarter of parents restricted interactions involving potential saliva exchange such as kissing on the lips and sharing eating utensils.

Clearly more works needs to be done to reassure parents about the limited transmissibility of HIV, note the researchers. For their study, which was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS08578), they conducted in-person interviews with 344 parents who participated in the HIV Cost and Services Utilization Study, a nationally representative sample of adults receiving health care for HIV in the United States.

Overall, 25 percent of parents avoided interactions with their child Ňa lotÓ due to fear of passing HIV to their child; 18.8 percent avoided kissing their child on the lips, 14.5 percent avoided sharing utensils, 1.3 percent avoided hugging their child, and 1.1 percent avoided kissing their child on the cheek. Avoidance was especially prevalent among parents interviewed in Spanish (78 percent) vs. English (23 percent). Also, 19 percent of parents avoided interactions with their children "a lot" for fear of catching an infection, including kissing on the lips (16 percent) sharing utensils (13 percent), hugging (0.9 percent), and kissing on the cheek (0.8 percent). Overall, 58 percent of parents reported some contact avoidance (either a little or a lot) due to these fears.

See "Hugs and kisses," by Mark A. Schuster, M.D., Ph.D., Megan K. Beckett, Ph.D., Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., and Annie J. Zhou, M.S., in the February 2005 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 159, pp. 173-179.

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