Children and HIV

A new joint study by UCLA and the Rand Corp. shows that more than half of children with an HIV-infected parent are not consistently in that parent’s custody.

Researchers found that during the two-year study period, 42 percent of children were not in the HIV-infected parent’s custody at any time.

The research is the first to use data from a nationally representative sample of people in care for HIV infection to investigate the custody status of children. The findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Toronto on May 7.

Cowgill added that pediatricians may also want to suggest that HIV-infected parents include future custodians in their children’s doctor visits so that these individuals are familiar with the physical and mental health needs of the children.

Using data from the Rand Corp.’s HIV Cost and Services Utilization Study, the team investigated whether HIV-infected parents had maintained custody of their children during the two-year period from 1996 to 1998. They found that 47 percent of children remained in the custody of an HIV-infected parent, while 42 percent were not in the parent’s custody at any time. The remaining 11 percent were out of their parent’s custody at some time during the study period.

HIV-infected fathers, parents with more advanced HIV disease, drug-using parents and parents with at least one hospital stay were less likely to have custody of their children.

A child’s other biological parent or other family members (grandparents, aunts/uncles) were most likely to be the alternate custodian. Parents cited drug use (62 percent) and financial hardship (27 percent) most often as reasons for losing custody of their children. Only 10 percent of HIV-infected parents mentioned the effects of HIV/AIDS as a reason for not maintaining custody of their children.