A new program developed by an Israeli professor at Bar Ilan University has the potential to help millions of children in Africa who have a parent with the AIDS virus.

A new program developed by Bar Ilan University’s Prof. Pnina Klein gives children who have parents with AIDS a better chance of improving their early childhood development. The study is based on a program funded by the National Institute of Health and was conducted in Uganda, where according to Shalom Life at least one million children have lost at least one parents to the AIDS disease. Yet, Klein’s program can also be utilized to significantly help children in other African countries who are equally plagued with this illness.

According to a statement published by Bar Ilan University, “The goal of the research, headed by Prof. Michael Boivin, of Michigan State University, was to determine whether children whose parents have HIV (AIDS) could benefit from Prof. Klein’s Mediational Intervention for Sensitizing Caregivers (MISC) Program. The MISC Program has helped caregivers in 14 other countries and different circumstances use day-to-day interaction at home to develop children’s social skills, language and cognitive ability. To test the approach the researchers recruited 120 uninfected preschool-aged children whose mothers had HIV.”

The statement continued, “The children’s caregivers – their infected mothers, in most cases – were randomly assigned to receive childcare training through MISC or through an education program focused on improving children’s health and nutrition. After a year, the children whose caregivers received the MISC training showed significantly more developmental progress than the others, with particularly strong gains in language learning. They also developed better memory and overall cognitive skills. Caregivers in both groups also benefited from the training. They showed decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, which could be attributed to the social support provided through the biweekly training sessions.”

Michael Boivin of Michigan State University, who participated in the study, claimed that these children’s parents are usually too busy working to support their families to provide these children with the affection and care that all young children require in order to develop properly as children. He asserted, “They face hardship even in the best of circumstances, because most are in impoverished environments. Their poverty is compounded by the fact that their parents are infected with HIV. They face tremendous challenges to their development.”

He continued, “MISC is about training mothers or other caregivers on ways they can be sensitive to their child’s natural tendencies to learn, and to direct those tendencies in everyday life to enrich the child’s development.” In fact, according to Michigan State University, who as mentioned previously also conducted the research based on this Israeli model, not only did the children show improvement once this Israeli program was implemented, but caregivers also showed decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety due to the social support provided through the biweekly training programs.

By Rachel Avraham