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Why you should discuss HIV with your teenager

Some conversations are too important to ignore. HIV is a serious issue and teens need to be aware of the disease and how it spreads.

There are some topics parents shy away from discussing with their children. One of them is likely HIV. However, teenagers and young adults account for nearly one-fourth of new HIV infections worldwide making educating your child about this topic more important now than ever.

Children are at risk of contracting HIV

Children can contract HIV if they have sexual contact, are sexually abused by, or exchange needles or syringes with an HIV-positive person. As of 2017, almost four out of every ten high school pupils had engaged in sexual activity. Each year, ten million new sexually transmitted infections (STDs) are recorded among young individuals aged 15 to 24, increasing their risk of contracting HIV.

Stick to the facts

Before discussing HIV with your teen, ascertain that you have accurate information. The fundamentals are as follows:

  • HIV is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
  • HIV is transmitted from person to person by blood, sperm, vaginal fluid, or breast milk.
  • Using latex condoms during sex, not sharing needles, and avoiding touching another person’s bodily fluids help prevent HIV.

The following factors increase one’s risk of contracting HIV:

  • Increased sexual partners
  • Use of intravenous drugs
  • Anal intercourse
  • Sex without a condom
  • Body piercing and tattooing with infected needles or tools

Use age-appropriate language

If you have more than one child, speak to each one separately. You’ll be able to have more candid conversations that are appropriate for their ages. For example, with younger children, you’ll need to use simpler language. Give your child your undivided attention. Each time you speak, inquire about what they already know and what they may have heard from their friends or teachers. Correct any misconceptions regarding HIV and people living with HIV as quickly as possible. Keep an eye out for indications that they are unable to absorb any additional information. Children frequently need to approach difficult or frightening issues in small doses.

Dispel HIV myths

There are many misconceptions surrounding HIV. It’s important that your child understands that:

  • Insects do not transmit HIV.
  • HIV doesn’t discriminate between types of people.
  • HIV cannot be passed on in everyday contact with someone who has HIV – for example, by shaking hands, hugging, sharing food or through coughs and sneezes.
  • HIV cannot be cured with wishful thinking, magic potions, or animal parts.
  • HIV cannot be contracted through toilet seats.

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