What Your Children Need to Know About AIDS

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"Mum, what's AIDS? There's a new boy at school and the other kids say he has AIDS. They say he is going to die and that if he touches me, I'll die too."

The words stop Carole cold. How does she begin to talk to seven-year-old Stacey about AIDS and the realities of sickness and death?

AIDS is a topic that many parents will undoubtedly wish they did not have to discuss with their children. Yet, responsible parents have little choice. For reasons of health and safety, kids need to know the facts about AIDS.

For young children like Stacey, a good rule of thumb is to keep it simple. A seven-year-old can understand that AIDS is a disease that can make people very sick. And, yes, people do die of AIDS. But Stacey also needs to be told that there is no reason to fear a child just because he or she has been diagnosed with AIDS. A well child cannot catch AIDS by playing tag with an infected child or through any other form of casual contact. What's more, a child with AIDS, like any ill person, deserves to be treated with compassion and understanding.

With older children, parents will want to provide more specific and detailed information. Adolescents need to know that if they take certain risks such as sharing a needle to take drugs or engaging in sex without the use of a condom, they run the risk of becoming infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) which causes AIDS (Acquired Immune deficiency Syndrome).

Such a formidable disease demands blunt language. So tell your child the facts. AIDS is fatal. Teenagers get AIDS. One mistake is all it takes.
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