Saturday, November 23, 2013

WORLD AIDS DAY: TALKING TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT HIV AND AIDS

WORLD AIDS DAY: TALKING TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT HIV AND AIDS


December 1 is Worlds AIDS Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about the pandemic that's affected millions around the globe for more than 30 years. Despite the drop in media attention, HIV and AIDS are still very real problems in the United States, with more than 1 million people in the country living with the disease today. Of the new infections being reported each year, 44 percent are among African-Americans, and 1 in 4 among youth age 13-24. Scarily, about 60 percent of those youth don't know that they're HIV-positive, making it more important than ever to talk to your kids about the virus. However, that conversation shouldn't be limited to just teens. There's something for children of all ages to learn about AIDS.
Here's what they should know:
Children Age 4 and Under
At this age, your child may not know or understand much about HIV/AIDS--if they've heard of it at all. So the discussion should simply focus on the fact that HIV is a sickness that people can get when someone else's blood gets into theirs. Explain to your child that they can't catch HIV/AIDS from being around someone who has it, or by touching them, and that it's perfectly fine for them to talk to, hug, and play with friends or family members who have the disease.
Prevention: It's important to tell your child that they should never touch anyone's cuts or scrapes.
Children Ages 5-8
By now, your child may have gotten a little more information about the disease from school or on TV, but with all of the misinformation still floating around (yes, still), there's a chance that there may be some confusion or even fear about HIV/AIDS. For this age group, reinforce the fact that it's safe to interact with people with HIV/AIDS. Talk about the transmission from blood to blood and teach them that it's not safe to do things like "blood brothers" and "blood sisters" (if kids even do that anymore!). You can also begin talking to your child about what HIV does to the body.
Prevention: Remind your child that if someone is bleeding, they should get a grown-up for help.
Pre-Teens Ages 9-12
For parents of pre-teens, the AIDS conversation gets a little tougher (sorry). At this age, it's not only time to talk about all of the other fluids that transmit HIV -- semen, pre-ejaculate, vaginal fluids, and breastmilk -- it's also the time to talk about all of the other ways it can be transmitted.
As cringeworthy as it may be for both of you, explain to your child the dangers of unprotected sex -- vaginal, anal, and oral -- and sharing needles. You can also provide more details about the symptoms of HIV and why it's important to get tested routinely.
Prevention: If you haven't already, talk to your pre-teen about abstinence from sex and drugs; the only 100% effective way to prevent HIV/AIDS. Also talk to them about other ways that they can protect themselves, like using condoms and not sharing needles and give them information about where they can get tested.
Teens and Young Adults 13 and Up
At this point, what your teen knows about sex and drugs may be pretty on par with what you know (sad, but true). But that's not to say that there still aren't things that they can learn from you about
Unfortunately, many teens still don't consider oral or anal sex as "real sex," and therefore don't consider it as risky behavior, so it's important that they understand the dangers that exist and the fact that if they're engaging in these acts, they still need to be protected.
Kids at this age (mostly boys) are also at higher risk of getting infected by sharing needles used to shoot steroids. For that reason, it's good to talk to your teen about syringe exchange programs.
With this age group, regular testing for HIV and other STDs should be emphasized. Explain to your teen the fact that it can take 3 months for HIV to be detected in their bodies, meaning that if they have unprotected sex in January, they have to wait until April to get tested and find out if they were infected during that particular encounter.
Teens (and some adults) also seem to think that they can look at a sexual partner and tell if they have HIV/AIDS or another sexually transmitted disease. Not true! So, they should be reminded that not only won't they be able to tell if someone they're "hooking up" with has HIV, but because it can take 10 years for symptoms to show up, that person might not even know they're infected either.
Prevention: It's not too late to talk to your teen about abstinence. It's also a good time to let them know that just because they've had sex or used drugs before, it doesn't mean that they can't stop and decide to abstain now.
Continue to encourage the use of condoms for vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and make sure that your teen (boys and girls) know where to get them and the right way to put them on.
Remind your teen that just because they're in a relationship, they can assume they're partner is being monogamous. It's still important to use condoms every time, no matter what he or she tells them, and to get tested regularly.
Tell your teen about the dangers of steroids, but also tell them about syringe exchange programs where they can get clean needles.
Explain how drugs and alcohol can increase the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS by impairing their judgment.
Give them information on where they can get tested for HIV -- like health departments, AIDS organizations, or places like Planned Parenthood. Teach them to be sexually responsible by getting tested on a regular basis (at least every 3 months), and reassure them that they can be tested completely anonymously.
Whatever age your child is, make sure that when talking to them about HIV/AIDS, you give them the most accurate information you can, keep it real with them (in an age appropriate manner, of course), and let them know that they can always come to you with any questions they may have.
Sources: www.aids.govwww.cdc.gov
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