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Talking with Your Child about HIV


What is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), a life-threatening disease. This virus attacks cells that the immune system needs to defend the body against disease. There are treatments for HIV, but so far there are no cures and no vaccines.

One in every four new infections with HIV is in someone under 22 years old. HIV is an important topic for parents and children to talk about. Parents are often uncomfortable discussing sex and drug use with their kids. But protecting children is part of a parent's job.

How should you discuss HIV with your child?

Be honest and clear when talking about HIV. Start by finding out what they already know. Talk about how they can get HIV. It is passed to others by:

  • having sex (oral, anal, or vaginal) with an infected person without using latex condoms
  • sharing syringes, razors, and needles for drugs, ear piercing or tattoos
  • fighting or taking part in "blood brother" rituals

Also, let kids know they will not get HIV from a swimming pool, drinking fountain, toilet seat, or from being around someone with HIV or AIDS. They cannot get it from an insect bite or sharing food. This is very important for young children to know.

How should you talk about sex and HIV?

It is not always easy for parents to talk about sexual issues with their children. Teens have many questions and need the facts. They also need your advice on family values. Let teens know that you are there to listen and support them. You can lay down the law, but you cannot control your teen's every waking moment. The best you can do is give information, for example:

  • The only way to be risk-free is to not have sex or share any kind of needles.
  • Use a latex condom for any kind of sexual intercourse. However, condoms do not make sex with an infected person 100% safe. Condoms fail to protect against pregnancy at least 10% of the time. The risk of failure to protect both partners from HIV is even greater.
  • Birth control is not the same as AIDS control. Other forms of birth control (for example, pills, diaphragms, IUDs, and patches) are useless against HIV.

Talking about safe sex does not encourage teens to have sex. This information can be life-saving information they will carry into adulthood.

For more information on HIV and AIDS, call the 24 hour National STD and AIDS Hotline at 800-342-2437 or visit their Web site at http://www.cdc.gov.


Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-06-14
Last reviewed: 2010-06-11

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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