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December is AIDS Awareness Month

Why and How You Should Talk to Your Kids About HIV

December is AIDS Awareness Month. The "birds-and-the-bees" talk is rarely comfortable or easy for a parent. And many parents don't want to think that their child could get infected with HIV. But they can, and avoiding the topic could end up harming them. Teens and young adults get almost one-fourth of new HIV infections in the U.S.

Older generations of adults didn't learn from their parents how to start or have discussions about HIV, since AIDS wasn't around when they were young. So if you're uncomfortable with this subject, be honest with your child about that. Your honesty will help them to open up to you in return. As challenging as it may be, you can and should talk about sex, drugs, and the serious possible consequences like HIV and AIDS.

Children can get HIV when they have sex with, are sexually abused by, or share needles or syringes with someone who has HIV. Ten million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) reported each year were among young people between the ages of 15 to 24 which raises the chances of getting HIV.

Do your homework before talking to kids about HIV.  The basics are:

  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
  • HIV is spread from person to person through contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk.
  • HIV can be prevented by using latex condoms during sex, not sharing needles, and avoiding contact with another person's body fluids.

The risk of HIV is increased by:

  • An increased number of sexual partners
  • IV drug use
  • Anal intercourse
  • Any sex without condoms
  • Use of alcohol or other drugs that tend to make people take more chances and make them less likely to use condoms
  • Tattoos and body piercing with contaminated needles or instruments

If you have more than one child, talk to them separately. You'll be able to have more open discussions that fit their ages. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry tells parents to let children know that:

  • AIDS is most often fatal.
  • Anyone can get AIDS. Kids and HIV may not seem like a problem, but many teens have been infected.
  • Condoms can reduce the risk of getting AIDS.
  • You can get AIDS from use of even one contaminated needle or one sexual act with someone who has HIV.

By having these ongoing talks, you can make sure they're getting accurate information, along with your family's values. Talking with your child about HIV and AIDS can also make it more likely that they'll delay sex and not try risky behavior, like having unprotected sex or sharing needles.