Around 1,000 Scottish children are living in families affected by the HIV virus although only 22 are themselves infected, a United Kingdom social services conference in Edinburgh heard last week.
Sarah Morton, Aids development officer with Children in Scotland, called on teachers to pay particular attention to children who have to deal with bereavement, poverty and drug abuse.
Ms Morton cautioned: "If a child does disclose that their mother has HIV you have to treat such information very carefully. It is not necessary to share that information throughout the school, although you might tell the headteacher. The teacher can be so important and the school can be the nicest part of a child's life. Those living with the secret that their parent is infected are living in a difficult situation. It can be very hard and families may be really worried the child is going to disclose it to outsiders."
Ms Morton said support services "often contain some form of prejudice". She believed help for HIV-affected children, such as bereavement counselling, would be equally helpful to other children.
Children in Scotland is finalising a survey to assess the numbers of children affected. Roy Kilpatrick, co-ordinator of the Scottish Voluntary HIV and Aids Forum, said: "The infection rate is small but the number of children affected is large."
Mr Kilpatrick said pioneering work with children had been badly affected by local government reform and the ensuing financial crisis for councils. Specialist workers had been cut and services forced to reconsider their remits.
CHILDREN in Scotland will publish a training manual and book on HIV and children next month. The manual, written by Joy Barlow of Aberlour Child Care Trust, will examine HIV awareness, working with parents who abuse drugs, child protection and bereavement.
The book, edited by Sarah Morton and David Johnson, relates some of the experiences of those working with families affected by HIV, and includes a chapter written by a teacher.
Details from Children in Scotland, Princes House, 5 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh EH2 4RG (0131 228 8484).