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Children, Adolescents and HIV/Aids
No. 30 (Updated 6/20/2011)

Unfortunately, HIV/Aids are still topics that must be discussed and addressed, particularly by those who have small or adolescent children. HIV is an infection that can result in full-blown Aids (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) which is a chronic illness that often has no symptoms.

HIV and Aids are not topics that should be swept under the rug in the hopes that your child or teen never has to face the consequences. HIV can be transmitted through sharing needles when using drugs or through sexual contact. The exchange of specific fluids in the body leads to HIV. Children and adolescents should be educated about these infections early on; it's also important that day cares, schools, health care providers and youth organizations provide brochures, pamphlets or other information about these conditions.

While it is essential that young children and adolescents learn about HIV and Aids, it's just as important that they realize that HIV and Aids are not infections that can spread easily like the common cold. Children need to know that they will not "catch" aids by drinking at the water fountain after other children have drank, and that touching someone will not spread the infection. While you want your child or adolescent to be aware of the dangers, you do not want them to become obsessed to the point that they are afraid to live an ordinary life.

Ideally, you should talk with your adolescent child before they reach the age when many teens begin experimenting with drugs or sex. Relate your discussions to a news story you saw on television, or an article in a magazine or newspaper. It may be uncomfortable, but educating your child on the dangers of HIV and Aids is absolutely essential. Ask your child if they are learning about these conditions in school.

Be sure that you have all of your facts straight before you discuss HIV and Aids with your child. For example, a younger child may ask if small children can get HIV or Aids. You should explain that while they can be born with HIV if the mother was infected during pregnancy, your child should not worry about contracting HIV in a school or daycare setting.

If your child has contracted Aids or is HIV positive, who should you inform? While you won't want everyone to know, it is important that your health care provider be aware of the situation. Your child's doctor or dentist should know, and possibly those in authority positions at school should any medical emergency arise. Disclosure to others is a matter of your own discretion.

When it comes to HIV/Aids and your child or adolescent, be smart. While you don't want to alarm or frighten them, you do want your child to be "in the know" about conditions that could potentially steal their lives.

This article was written by Tim Manasterski, a staff member.

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