by Tina Allen, LMT, CPMMT, CPMT, CIMT
Updated April 2016
Many still believe you can contract AIDS via touch – you cannot
Untouchable! This is one of the first words that haunt infants and children affected by HIV/AIDS. It seems unfathomable that infants and children would be deprived of touch, especially when their life is complicated but such a diagnosis that cuddling and nurturing seem so appropriate. This is the unfortunate reality for many babies and children living with AIDS.
Misconception and confusion surrounds the diagnosis. Many still believe you can contract AIDS via touch – you cannot. This may not be news to some of us, but it is to others. And, still do they believe it? And, your question, do they believe it enough to actually nurture the child without hesitation? Unfortunately that answer is still a resounding NO!
Pediatric massage and nurturing care for children with a variety of special healthcare needs
This realization happened for me again during my recent visit to orphanage and children’s care settings in Vietnam. In Vietnam, the goal of our therapeutic team was to provide pediatric massage and nurturing touch, as well as, teach caregivers to do the same. It is not shocking that many of the children who received our pediatric massage and nurturing care were children with a variety of special healthcare needs, including muscular dystrophy, hydrocephalus, spina bifida, developmental disabilities, Autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, agent orange exposure, landmine exposure and of course children affected by HIV and AIDS.
All children deserve to be loved and nurtured, especially during a time of grave illness
What may be seen as shocking is when one of our pediatric massage team members went into a critical care infant nursery to inquire if the staff members wished to learn infant massage for the children under their care. The volunteer suggested the caregivers pick up a baby and begin to learn massage techniques. When selecting the infant one staff member would work with, the volunteer pointed to a baby who was isolated by herself seemingly a corner. The caregiver motioned no, we don’t touch that one. When asked why, the caregiver replied, “Because she is sick. It would be a waste of our time.” Shocking isn’t it?, but then you think, maybe the child’s condition is such that touch would be contraindicated. Maybe massage would be harmful for this baby? With more investigation, the volunteer massage therapist finds out that massage is contraindicated, according to the caregivers, because the baby has AIDS. That’s the entire reason . . . she has AIDS . . . we don’t waste our time with her.
The stigma of her diagnosis surrounded that baby like a dark and gloomy cloud. Without hesitation, the volunteer leaned forward picked up that baby, and it was then that the real education began. There are no barriers, all children deserve to be loved and nurtured, especially during a time of grave illness. Just holding and being present was a lesson that the orphanage caregiver will never forget.
Massage may be a supportive therapy that can be readily applied, most effectively by specially trained massage therapists or by parents who have learned massage techniques from a skilled, educated massage therapist. Pediatric massage and nurturing touch are the most appropriate massage techniques to use in this population. When using massage therapy for children with cancer, your work does not need to be aggressive to achieve its maximum potential.
For more information visit Comprehensive Pediatric Massage Training Course (CPMT)
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