We need to tell our
kids about HIV-AIDS because they hear about it all
Everybody knows that it is a dangerous disease,
caused because of unsafe sex, but do not have clear
information about it.
I know that I must explain about condoms and all
to my daughter…
I fear that all this knowledge might make them experiment…even
then, it is better that they know how to be safe.
- Mothers of adolescents
If you have adolescent kids, on the threshold of
the teen years, talking to them about AIDS needs
to be done sooner than later. As the disease explodes
all around us and ceases to be a dreadful something
happening to some other people in some far off place,
your child is likely to be bombarded by the words
AIDS time and again. Many would have heard about
it in the passing, gleaned information from the
print and electronic media, or may have even been
taught about it in a sex education or values education
session at school.
Yet, while our children are hearing about AIDS early
on, what they are learning is often insufficient
and inaccurate and therefore alarming. Very often,
even we adults may be at a loss for want of complete
information, which needs to be remedied right away.
As individuals who are responsible for their children,
being able to influence them from early on, it is
critical for mothers to be educated about AIDS.
If you have the facts right and stay informed, and
are able to share the information with your daughters,
you will be able to allay their doubts and address
their fears about AIDS. Most importantly, you will
keep your daughter safe, which is the primary objective
of every parent.
You may have to initiate the discussion, looking
for an appropriate opportunity to raise the subject.
Just watching the TV together, which one often does,
or flicking through a magazine together may present
you with some such occasions. There are social messages
on AIDS, advertisements and articles aplenty. Provide
her with basic information, appropriate to her age
and levels of comprehension. For example you can
begin by explaining that :
is a very serious disease. It is caused by
a virus, called HIV which stands for Human
Immunodeficiency Virus, which makes people
very sick (even leading to death)” You
may want to consider her emotional maturity
and accordingly decide whether to talk about
death right away or a little later. If she
is able to absorb the first bit and you feel
she is ready for more, then you may continue
by explaining -
body is made up of billions of cells. Some
of these cells, called T-cells, help your
body stay healthy by fighting off any disease.
This is called the body's immune system. But
if you get a virus called HIV, that virus
kills the T- cell which forms the basis of
the body's immunity (fighting capacity of
the body to eliminate diseases). Over time,
the body can't fight disease any more and
that person has AIDS."
is the short form of Acquired Immune Deficiency
- Acquired, because it is not hereditary.
- Immune, because the immune system
of the body is attacked.
- Deficient or lacking in immunity.
- Syndrome characterized by a number
of symptoms occurring together.
virus is mostly concentrated in the people's
blood. So if a person ill with the virus,
gets a blood test done, the test will show
positive, and that is why the person is called
HIV positive does not mean you have AIDS.
Although people who are HIV positive are mostly
likely to develop AIDS, early detection, extensive
care like proper nutrition, regular exercise
and medication, one can avoid developing AIDS.
This last fact is an
extremely essential aspect which even we adults
are not very clear about and need to first clearly
understand, and then explain to our daughters -
that there is a difference between being HIV positive
and having full blown AIDS. You could explain it
in simple terms like :
are various stages to any disease, the initial,
less serious stage which if not attended
to, advances from one stage to another,
till it reaches the ultimate stage that
is very, very serious. As in some diseases
like malignant cancers, the disease AIDS
will cause death in the final stage.
being HIV positive is the first stage of
the illness. After being diagnosed as HIV
positive, one needs to take great care such
as eat good food, exercise regularly, sleep
well, take medicines. All this will help
the body's immune system that is affected
by the HIV virus. If the immune system is
helped by a healthy lifestyle, then the
HIV positive person will not fall ill and
develop symptoms of various ills like continuous
fever, severe cold and cough, stomach ailments,
etc. In this way, the affected person can
continue living a normal life and avoid
reaching the final stages of the disease,
which is understood as AIDS, meaning a 'syndrome
characterized by a number of symptoms occurring
the person cannot be cured of the virus,
not yet at least. Intensive medical research
is being carried out on a war footing to
discover an antidote to the virus. Therefore,
until then, the HIV positive person has
to take immense care not only of himself
or herself, but also be careful of not transmitting
the virus to other people. This requires
the HIV positive person to behave with great
any form of unprotected sexual contact with
a person who is HIV positive, and also be
very careful in case that person has any
open cuts or wounds since the virus can
be transmitted through blood.
The HIV infection occurs due to the virus
which is present in the
people's blood fluids like blood or semen
(in case of men) and vaginal fluids (in
case of women) entering the body. This can
happen through infected blood transfusion
or using the same needle used by an infected
HIV person or using any infected equipment
during any surgery.
Young people must also be taught to ensure
that separate needles
must be insisted on in every situation requiring
the usage of one. For instance, during blood
donation, or in the event of any injection
being administered on themselves or anybody
Once this basic understanding of HIV/AIDS is achieved,
and if you have already had your talk about sex
with your daughter and she is aware of sperms and
ova, you may add that :
virus is mostly in the people's body fluids,
like blood, or semen in case of men and
vaginal fluid in women. Mostly people will
get the disease if blood or semen which
contains the HIV virus enters their body.
This can happen through infected blood transfusions,
or the same needle (like those used to inject)
being used by many people, or if the infected
semen from the man enters the woman's body
during sex or vice versa from the woman's
infected vaginal fluids to men during sex.”
When talking to your
daughter about AIDS, it is important to present
the facts in a balanced manner. One must also
point out that while HIV is a virus, it is not
contagious like the common cold or flu. People
do not transmit the virus by touch or by droplet
infection via air (as in case of cold virus) by
sneezing or coughing and it is quite hard to catch
the virus if people take necessary precautions
(separate needles, condoms).
While mothers may take a call on when to tell
their children about condoms and sharing needles,
older children, in their teens definitely need
to understand these facts. They must be told that
young people can often be forced into trying drugs,
by their friends. What can initially be an occasional
fun thing to do, which gives you a high, can soon
become an addiction. From apparently harmless
pills and smoking, hard core 'druggies' can move
on to injecting themselves and often end up sharing
the same syringe and needle. If any one user is
HIV positive, the virus will surely pass on to
the other users. This is how friends can transmit
the dreaded virus amongst each other. The kids
should therefore be made to realize that it is
best to stay away from drugs in
the first place.
One will appreciate that notwithstanding the more
conservative values much of our society espouses,
no matter what parents believe and know, more
and more teenagers these days are experimenting
with sex and are sexually active from a rather
early age. It may be impossible for parents to
control and restrain the kids at every step. The
best that one can do is to instill the right values
in our children and provide them with information,
enabling them to make the right decisions and
take appropriate protection. In this context,
therefore, it is pertinent to stress on the need
for 'safe sex', to explain how condoms could help
protect people from getting AIDS.
Another manner in which parent's can be supportive
is by fostering a child's self esteem. By being
involved in your daughter's life, sharing her
interests, doing things together, communicating
with her, praising her often, encouraging her
efforts, being honest and forthcoming with her,
you will help her to acquire a positive, healthy
self image. Young people with high self esteem,
who feel good about themselves, are better able
to deal with peer pressure, are able to say no,
when being compelled to experiment with alcohol,
smoking, drugs or sex. They are less worried about
'not belonging' and conforming to the peers not
so healthy pursuits. This in effect will keep
them from indulging in activities that might cause
Some of us have the notion that AIDS is something
that happens only to people who are highly sexually
active, who lead promiscuous lives and to homosexuals.
AIDS has become most closely connected to homosexuality
(sexual relations between people of the same gender).
While it is true to an extent that people who
are sexually active and who have sex with multiple
partners stand the greatest chances of contracting
the disease, it can actually happen to anyone.
No mother can afford to be complacent with the
belief that AIDS has got nothing to do with her
family or her child. It is better to fear the
worst and prevent anything from happening in the
first place, by making your daughter aware and
responsible. As a mother of an adolescent, you
will agree that it makes more sense to be concerned
about her safety than about ending her innocence
with harsh truths like AIDS.
Finally, while one cannot emphasize enough the
significance of conveying the seriousness of AIDS
to our children, one also needs to
explain to them, that there is no need to avoid
normal contact with people who are HIV positive.
This would imply that one will not be infected
with the HIV virus by:
or casual contact with a HIV positive person.
dishes or eating utensils.
or toilet seats.
||Dry kissing or
Those diagnosed with the virus, should instead be
supported to lead as
normal a life as possible. In fact, it is the negative
attitudes of people, stemming mostly from ignorance,
which keeps people from discussing about it and
dealing with it openly, thereby leading to disastrous
Due to fear of being ostracized, people who are
HIV positive keep the fact from their family and
friends. Those who have a doubt that they may be
tested positive refuse to undergo the test. These
people carry on with their lives as if nothing has
happened, not taking the necessary precautions,
and certainly not seeking medical advice or intervention.
While they are certainly headed towards imminent
disaster, they also put other lives in danger along
the way. For example, this person can pass on the
virus to his wife or partner, who, if she is pregnant
can pass it on to her baby. Further, if his condition
deteriorates, leading to full blown AIDS, there
is no measure of the trauma that both he and his
family will undergo.
It is therefore imperative for you as a mother to
present the full picture to your child. Warn her
of the dangers to ensure her own safety, also teach
her to be accepting of people with the condition.
Provide her with complete and accurate information
so that she is equipped to deal with people with