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Current Trends Education and Foster Care of Children Infected with Human T-Lymphotropic Virus Type III/ Lymphadenopathy-Associated Virus

The information and recommendations contained in this document were developed and compiled by CDC in consultation with individuals appointed by their organizations to represent the Conference of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers, the National Association of County Health Officers, the Division of Maternal and Child Health (Health Resources and Services Administration), the National Association for Elementary School Principals, the National Association of State School Nurse Consultants, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, and the Children's Aid Society. The consultants also included the mother of a child with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a legal advisor to a state education department, and several pediatricians who are experts in the field of pediatric AIDS. This document is made available to assist state and local health and education departments in developing guidelines for their particular situations and locations.

These recommendations apply to all children known to be infected with human T-lymphotropic virus type III/lymphadenopathy-associated virus (HTLV- III/LAV). This includes children with AIDS as defined for reporting purposes (Table 1); children who are diagnosed by their physicians as having an illness due to infection with HTLV-III/LAV but who do not meet the case definition; and children who are asymptomatic but have virologic or serologic evidence of infection with HTLV-III/LAV. These recommendations do not apply to siblings of infected children unless they are also infected.


The Scope of the Problem. As of August 20, 1985, 183 of the 12,599 reported cases of AIDS in the United States were among children under 18 years of age. This number is expected to double in the next year. Children with AIDS have been reported from 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, with 75% residing in New York, California, Florida, and New Jersey.

The 183 AIDS patients reported to CDC represent only the most severe form of HTLV-III/LAV infection, i.e., those children who develop opportunistic infections or malignancies (Table 1). As in adults with HTLV-III/LAV infection, many infected children may have milder illness or may be asymptomatic.

Legal Issues. Among the legal issues to be considered in forming guidelines for the education and foster care of HTLV-III/LAV-infected children are the civil rights aspects of public school attendance, the protections for handicapped children under 20 U.S.C. 1401 et seq. and 29 U.S.C. 794, the confidentiality of a student's school record under state laws and under 20 U.S.C. 1232g, and employee right-to-know statutes for public employees in some states.

Confidentiality Issues. The diagnosis of AIDS or associated illnesses evokes much fear from others in contact with the patient and may evoke suspicion of life styles that may not be acceptable to some persons. Parents of HTLV-III/LAV-infected children should be aware of the potential for social isolation should the child's condition become known to others in the care or educational setting. School, day-care, and social service personnel and others involved in educating and caring for these children should be sensitive to the need for confidentiality and the right to privacy in these cases.


Risk Factors for Acquiring HTLV-III/LAV Infection and Transmission. In adults and adolescents, HLTV-III/LAV is transmitted primarily through sexual contact (homosexual or heterosexual) and through parenteral exposure to infected blood or blood products. HTLV-III/LAV has been isolated from blood, semen, saliva, and tears but transmission has not been documented from saliva and tears. Adults at increased risk for acquiring HTLV-III/LAV include homosexual/bisexual men, intravenous drug abusers, persons transfused with contaminated blood or blood products, and sexual contacts of persons with HTLV-III/LAV infection or in groups at increased risk for infection.

The majority of infected children acquire the virus from their infected mothers in the perinatal period (1-4). In utero or intrapartum transmission are likely, and one child reported from Australia apparently acquired the virus postnatally, possibly from ingestion of breast milk (5). Children may also become infected through transfusion of blood or blood products that contain the virus. Seventy percent of the pediatric cases reported to CDC occurred among children whose parent had AIDS or was a member of a group at increased risk of acquiring HTLV-III/LAV infection; 20% of the cases occurred among children who had received blood or blood products; and for 10%, investigations are incomplete.

Risk of Transmission in the School, Day-Care or Foster-Care Setting. None of the identified cases of HTLV-III/LAV infection in the United States are known to have been transmitted in the school, day-care, or foster-care setting or through other casual person-to-person contact. Other than the sexual partners of HTLV-III/LAV-infected patients and infants born to infected mothers, none of the family members of the over 12,000 AIDS patients reported to CDC have been reported to have AIDS. Six studies of family members of patients with HTLV-III/LAV infection have failed to demonstrate HTLV-III/LAV transmission to adults who were not sexual contacts of the infected patients or to older children who were not likely at risk from perinatal transmission (6-11).

Based on current evidence, casual person-to-person contact as would occur among schoolchildren appears to pose no risk. However, studies of the risk of transmission through contact between younger children and neurologically handicapped children who lack control of their body secretions are very limited. Based on experience with other communicable diseases, a theoretical potential for transmission would be greatest among these children. It should be emphasized that any theoretical transmission would most likely involve exposure of open skin lesions or mucous membranes to blood and possibly other body fluids of an infected person.

Risks to the Child with HTLV-III/LAV Infection. HTLV-III/LAV infection may result in immunodeficiency. Such children may have a greater risk of encountering infectious agents in a school or day-care setting than at home. Foster homes with multiple children may also increase the risk. In addition, younger children and neurologically handicapped children who may display behaviors such as mouthing of toys would be expected to be at greater risk for acquiring infections. Immunodepressed children are also at greater risk of suffering severe complications from such infections as chickenpox, cytomegalovirus, tuberculosis, herpes simplex, and measles. Assessment of the risk to the immunodepressed child is best made by the child's physician who is aware of the child's immune status. The risk of acquiring some infections, such as chickenpox, may be reduced by prompt use of specific immune globulin following a known exposure.


  1. Decisions regarding the type of educational and care setting for HTLV-III/LAV-infected children should be based on the behavior, neurologic development, and physical condition of the child and the expected type of interaction with others in that setting. These decisions are best made using the team approach including the child's physician, public health personnel, the child's parent or guardian, and personnel associated with the proposed care or educational setting. In each case, risks and benefits to both the infected child and to others in the setting should be weighed.

  2. For most infected school-aged children, the benefits of an unrestricted setting would outweigh the risks of their acquiring potentially harmful infections in the setting and the apparent nonexistent risk of transmission of HTLV-III/LAV. These children should be allowed to attend school and after-school day-care and to be placed in a foster home in an unrestricted setting.

  3. For the infected preschool-aged child and for some neurologically handicapped children who lack control of their body secretions or who display behavior, such as biting, and those children who have uncoverable, oozing lesions, a more restricted environment is advisable until more is known about transmission in these settings. Children infected with HTLV-III/LAV should be cared for and educated in settings that minimize exposure of other children to blood or body fluids.

  4. Care involving exposure to the infected child's body fluids and excrement, such as feeding and diaper changing, should be performed by persons who are aware of the child's HTLV-III/LAV infection and the modes of possible transmission. In any setting involving an HTLV- III/LAV-infected person, good handwashing after exposure to blood and body fluids and before caring for another child should be observed, and gloves should be worn if open lesions are present on the caretaker's hands. Any open lesions on the infected person should also be covered.

  5. Because other infections in addition to HTLV-III/LAV can be present in blood or body fluids, all schools and day-care facilities, regard- less of whether children with HTLV-III/LAV infection are attending, should adopt routine procedures for handling blood or body fluids. Soiled surfaces should be promptly cleaned with disinfectants, such as household bleach (diluted 1 part bleach to 10 parts water). Disposable towels or tissues should be used whenever possible, and mops should be rinsed in the disinfectant. Those who are cleaning should avoid exposure of open skin lesions or mucous membranes to the blood or body fluids.

  6. The hygienic practices of children with HTLV-III/LAV infection may improve as the child matures. Alternatively, the hygienic practices may deteriorate if the child's condition worsens. Evaluation to assess the need for a restricted environment should be performed regularly.

  7. Physicians caring for children born to mothers with AIDS or at increased risk of acquiring HTLV-III/LAV infection should consider testing the children for evidence of HTLV-III/LAV infection for medical reasons. For example, vaccination of infected children with live virus vaccines, such as the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR), may be hazardous. These children also need to be followed closely for problems with growth and development and given prompt and aggressive therapy for infections and exposure to potentially lethal infections, such as varicella. In the event that an antiviral agent or other therapy for HTLV-III/LAV infection becomes available, these children should be considered for such therapy. Knowledge that a child is infected will allow parents and other caretakers to take precautions when exposed to the blood and body fluids of the child.

  8. Adoption and foster-care agencies should consider adding HTLV-III/LAV screening to their routine medical evaluations of children at increased risk of infection before placement in the foster or adoptive home, since these parents must make decisions regarding the medical care of the child end must consider the possible social and psychological effects on their families.

  9. Mandatory screening as a condition for school entry is not warranted based on available data.

  10. Persons involved in the care and education of HTLV-III/LAV-infected children should respect the child's right to privacy, including maintaining confidential records. The number of personnel who are aware of the child's condition should be kept at a minimum needed to assure proper care of the child and to detect situations where the potential for transmission may increase (e.g., bleeding injury).

  11. All educational and public health departments, regardless of whether HTLV-III/LAV-infected children are involved, are strongly encouraged to inform parents, children, and educators regarding HTLV-III/LAV and its transmission. Such education would greatly assist efforts to provide the best care and education for infected children while mini- mizing the risk of transmission to others.


  1. Scott GB, Buck BE, Leterman JG, Bloom FL, Parks WP. Acquired immuno- deficiency syndrome in infants. N Engl J Med 1984;310:76-81.

  2. Thomas PA, Jaffe HW, Spira TJ, Reiss R, Guerrero IC, Auerbach D. Unexplained immunodeficiency in children. A surveillance report. JAMA 1984;252:639-44.

  3. Rubinstein A, Sicklick M, Gupta A, et al. Acquired immunodeficiency with reversed T4/T8 ratios in infants born to promiscuous and drug-addicted mothers. JAMA 1983;249:2350-6.

  4. Oleske J, Minnefor A, Cooper R Jr, et al. Immune deficiency syndrome in children. JAMA 1983;249:2345-9.

  5. Ziegler JB, Cooper DA, Johnson RO, Gold J. Postnatal transmission of AIDS-associated retrovirus from mother to infant. Lancet 1985;i:896-8.

  6. CDC. Unpublished data.

  7. Kaplan JE, Oleske JM, Getchell JP, et al. Evidence against transmission of HTLV-III/LAV in families of children with AIDS. Pediatric Infectious Disease (in press).

  8. Lewin EB, Zack R, Ayodele A. Communicability of AIDS in a foster care setting. International Conference on Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Atlanta, Georgia, April 1985.

  9. Thomas PA, Lubin K, Enlow RW, Getchell J. Comparison of HTLV-III serology, T-cell levels, and general health status of children whose mothers have AIDS with children of healthy inner city mothers in New York. International Conference on Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Atlanta, Georgia, April 1985.

  10. Fischl MA, Dickinson G, Scott G, Klimas N, Fletcher M, Parks W. Evalua- tion of household contacts of adult patients with the acquired immuno- deficiency syndrome. International Conference on Acquired Immuno- deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Atlanta, Georgia, April 1985.

  11. Friedland GH, Saltzman BR, Rogers MF, et al. Lack of household trans- mission of HTLV-III infection. EIS Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 1985.

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