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Talking to Your Children About HIV/AIDS

Talking about HIV/AIDS may not be easy but it is important for parents to provide children with accurate information so that they can understand what HIV/AIDS is and how they can protect themselves from this virus.

Why it is important to talk to your children about HIV/AIDS

Children and teenagers can be affected by HIV/AIDS at any age. They may hear about it on TV or from their friends, and may wonder how it might affect them.

They need to know about HIV/AIDS to:

  • Reduce their fears about the disease
  • Satisfy their natural curiosity
  • Reassure them if they have family/friends who have been affected by it
  • Help delay sexual activity
  • Encourage safer sex practices by using  condoms if they are sexually active
  • Reduce risks related to needle usage for drugs
  • Encourage a healthy attitude about sexuality

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What should I tell my children?

What you tell your children will depend on their age, curiosity, interest, and how much they may already know.

Pre-School - 3 to 4 years

  • Are learning about their bodies and how to take care of their bodies
  • Parents can let their children know that sexuality is something that can be talked about at home

Young Children - 5 to 8 years

  • Children this age have probably heard something about HIV/AIDS
  • They may have questions or concerns.
  • You can reassure them that it isn't like a cold that you can get. It isn’t that easy to catch.
  • Discuss what they already know and dispel any myths.
  • Encourage compassion and understanding.

Pre-Teens - 9 to 12 years

  • The pre-teen years are a time of concern as bodies begin to change.
  • When talking with your children, use correct words for body parts, talk about what sexual intercourse is, discuss risky behaviours for pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS, and discuss safe sex.
  • Some teens may begin to experiment with alcohol, drugs or early sexual experience. It is important that you talk with them and give them accurate information about drugs/alcohol and sex.
  • Remember to share your family values.

Teens - 13 to 19 years

  • As bodies continue to change, there is more confusion and conflict.
  • Teens need to know much more information and detail than the pre-teen years.
  • They need to know that the best way to prevent  HIV/AIDS is to  avoid sexual intercourse and injection drug use.
  • They need to know how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) using birth control and condoms.
  • They need to know  alternatives to sexual intercourse such as kissing and masturbation.
  • They need to have discussions about risky behaviours such as  sharing needles and how drugs affect decision making skills.
  • They need to know HIV/AIDS can affect anyone who engages in risky behaviours, not just homosexuals. It is the behaviour not the individual that puts someone at risk.

Adapted from: "We Need To Know About AIDS: a guide for parents on talking with their children about AIDS" Health Canada, 1995

For more information - visit the  How to talk to your children about sexuality section of this website call or visit one of our  Sexual Health clinic locations.

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