HIV/AIDS puts a very prominent effect on our lives — positive as well as negative. News of the disease is all around us. Pictures of children, orphaned by AIDS, fill the pages of our magazines. Hundreds of thousands of children across the world die because of AIDS.

According to the UNAIDS report of 2008,

* At the end of 2007, there were 2 million children (under the age of 15 years) living with HIV around the world.
* Of the 2 million people who died of AIDS during 2007, more than one in a seven were children. Every hour, around 31 children die as a result of AIDS.

Children must be protected from the harsh realities of life. They often feel like nothing can hurt them. To many, the impression of HIV is nothing more than a disease that doesn’t affect them. For that reason it’s necessary that all parents talk to their children about HIV. Initially it is required to find out what they have heard, what they know, what they think they know, and how they feel about it. Talking with kids about HIV can be difficult, uncomfortable, or confusing, yet it is essential. This discussion will provide a good foundation for future conversations about safer sex and HIV prevention.

How to start the conversation? Topics like these are not made for discussing at the dinner table. The best way is to link the conversation with the any current scenario going on. For instance, if there is a television ad about HIV, start a conversation after, asking questions like “Have you heard of HIV?” and “What do you know about HIV?”. Icebreakers like these not only help initiate a conversation easily, but also give a clue as to how much or how little the child knows about HIV.

Begin with clearly defining the names of reproductive organs of the body. Most importantly, make sure your child knows you are always open to discuss any topic. Let them know that HIV is a serious illness that is caused by a virus. Many times, kids fear getting sick. Assure them HIV rarely affects children at small age and chances of getting HIV are extremely small. Include the role that drug needles play in HIV infection and the risks of casual sex.

Once the child graduates into teenage, their image and social understanding is preoccupied with themselves. Many are impulsive and feel they are invincible. In the quest for independence they take risks, sexual risks are also involved. Remind them that anyone can get infected with HIV and the disease does not discriminate according to race, sex, age, or social status. Make sure they understand that latex condoms are a must and are for more than preventing pregnancy. Emphasize the impact alcohol and drugs have on HIV risk — it’s difficult to make sound, healthy choices when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Finally, comfort them by letting them know that you would be available anytime if they want to talk and no subject is off limits. Provide an atmosphere that allows frank discussions about sex without a punitive response from you.

Please give your thoughts about the different ways a parent could play the role of a buffer between children and HIV/AIDS.


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