The possibility of transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from infected children to their contacts has been confronted in households, schools, day-care centers, and other child care settings. Cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and several studies of close contacts of HIV-infected patients suggested that the risk of transmission in these settings is extremely low. However, most of these studies involved infected adults or older children. Younger children, who drool, bite, mouth toys, and are incontinent, may be more likely to transmit HIV in these settings. To assess this possibility, the authors tested 89 members of households in which 25 children with HIV infection, most of whom were preschool-aged, resided. Household members had close personal contact with the infected children. They shared many items likely to be soiled with blood and body fluids, such as toys, toothbrushes, eating utensils, toilets, and bathtubs. Hugging, kissing, sharing a bed, and bathing together were common. Household members were tested no sooner than 4 months after initial contact with the infected child, to allow adequate time for sero-conversion. All 89 participating household members were anti-HIV seronegative, and 78 who were tested were serum p24 antigen negative. It was concluded from this study and other evidence that the risk of transmission from children to their contacts is extremely low and has not been clearly documented in the household setting.

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