by Tina Allen, LMT, CPMMT, CPMT, CIMT
Updated April 2016
Many people are still confused as to whether they can contract AIDS via touch . . . you cannot!
As the most publicized infectious disease in the western world, there is substantial fear among alternative healthcare practitioners about being in close contact with an infected individual. This fear causes many to be hands-off with patients and clients under their care.
The stigma surrounding AIDS can impart many negative effects on the mind and body. Unfortunately, one of the first reactions of friends and family to a diagnosis of HIV is a reluctance to touch the person. People living with this disease are often viewed by some as 'untouchable' members of society, furthering feelings of isolation and depression. Now, imagine for a moment, you are an infant or child who people are scared to touch for fear of contracting AIDS. This is the reality for children living in the world today. With all of the vast information available, many people are still confused as to whether they can contract AIDS via touch . . . you cannot!
Failure to Thrive
When you read the statistics, it is even more appalling to consider children not receiving touch due to their diagnosis. According to statistics released in May 2006 by the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 38.6 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS in 2005. This number reflects approximately 2.3 million children living with HIV/AIDS.
Many infants or children living with HIV are known or suspected to be infected because their mother's HIV status is already known. However, some cases in children are not recognized until the child starts to develop symptoms.
In infants and children, signs and symptoms of HIV infection include:
- Failure to gain weight or grow according to standardized growth charts. This is also known as "failure to thrive."
- Failure to reach developmental milestones within a typical timeframe
- Neurologic problems – difficulty with walking, trouble in school, seizures
- Abnormally frequent childhood infections like ear infections, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, gastroenteritis, etc.
Pediatric massage therapy may be just the nurturing care that a child with AIDS needs to improve their body, mind and spirit
Due to the stigma associated with the diagnosis, receiving massage and nurturing touch can provide a great psychological benefit to a child affected by HIV/AIDS.
Massage can often improve the quality of life for children, ease anxiety and tension, increase ability to sleep more soundly and increase the production of hormones which improve their mood.
In one study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, HIV-positive adolescents who received massage therapy felt less anxious, less depressed and demonstrated enhanced immune function.
Massage has also been shown to increase white blood cells, decrease stress hormones (Cortisol), activate natural killer cells and decrease body discomforts including muscle spasms, cramps. edema and inflammation.
With a diagnosis that causes such a “hands-off” stigma, pediatric massage therapy may be just the nurturing care that a child with AIDS needs to improve their body, mind and spirit.
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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