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Health & Parenting

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Talking With Your Children About HIV and AIDS

While sex can be an embarrassing topic to broach with children, having "the talk" has never been more important. Sex has consequences that can be more dire than pregnancy -- namely HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. And it's important even for kids to know the facts about HIV.

Despite significant advances in medical treatment for HIV, there are no cures and no vaccines that can prevent the disease.

The CDC estimates that about 48,298 people in the U.S. were newly infected with HIV in 2010 -- the most recent year that data is available.

HIV/AIDS Talking Points

1. Do your homework before talking to kids about HIV.

Know the basic facts about HIV/AIDS:

• Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

• HIV is transmitted from person to person through contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk.

• HIV can be prevented by using latex condoms during sex, not sharing needles, and avoiding contact with another person's body fluids.

The risk of HIV is increased by:

  • An increased number of sexual partners
  • IV drug use
  • Anal intercourse
  • Any sex without condoms
  • Use of alcohol or other drugs that tend to loosen inhibitions and make people less likely to use condoms
  • Tattoos and body piercing with contaminated needles or instruments

2. Broach the subject of HIV with your kids.

Don't let embarrassment stop you. Take your cue from a commercial about AIDS that pops up as you're watching TV with your kids. Ask them if they have heard about the disease, and what they know about it. Research shows that as many as 93% of children have already heard about the illness by the time they reach third grade.

3. Know your audience.

It's important to provide age-appropriate information. To an 8-year-old, you might say, "AIDS is a disease that makes people very sick. It's caused by a virus, called HIV, which is a tiny germ." An older child can absorb more detailed information. Preteens should be armed with information about how condoms can prevent transmission of HIV.

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