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AIDS, HIV and Kids

This page was reviewed or revised on Monday, October 03, 2011 12:42 PM

Talking to kids about HIV & AIDS

Whether their risk of infection is large or small, children and teens need to know about HIV and AIDS.

Accurate information will satisfy their curiosity, reduce their fears, and help to protect them.

HIV and AIDS can affect children at any age. Teens may be at risk, or have friends they are worried about. Younger children may have heard about it on TV or from their friends, and wonder what it means.

Your child may already know a lot about HIV and AIDS from health or sexual health education class at school. From kindergarten, until the end of high school, they should be learning about HIV and AIDS prevention at school, but that may not be the case. Talk with them about what is being taught, or ask the school what resources are used.

Suggestions of what children should know, and at what age

Young children (5-8 years old)

Try to find out what they already know. It is a perfect time to dispel any myths they may have picked up.

By 5-8 years of age, children have likely heard about AIDS and may have questions or fears about it. Let them know they should not worry about getting AIDS and people with HIV/AIDS need compassion and friendship.

Explain that AIDS is a sickness caused by a germ, or virus, carried in some people's blood. Tell them it is not like a cold, and is not easy to catch. Tell them it is not spread by mosquito bites, toilet seats, drinking fountains or swimming pools, and you cannot get sick by being around someone with AIDS.

Pre-teens (9-12 years old)

With the changes of puberty, pre-teens become more concerned about their bodies and their looks. Parents need to talk to them about sexuality, AIDS and drugs. Give them accurate information and use correct words for body parts.

Explain sexual intercourse, how HIV is spread, how to avoid risky behaviours and why taking drugs is dangerous.

Pre-teens are old enough to know what AIDS stands for - Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome - and what it means: cells that fight infection are not working. Explain AIDS is a disease with no cure, but can be prevented.

Teenagers (13-19 years old)

Teenagers need far more information, and in far more detail. Teens need to know that the best way to prevent HIV and AIDS is to avoid sexual intercourse and injection drug use.

They need to know about condoms and birth control, too, and how drugs and alcohol can affect their judgement. Tell them about the risks of sharing needles for injecting drugs, including steroids, or for ear piercing or tattoos. Explain that AIDS is not just a disease that affects gay men, but can affect anyone who engages in risky behaviours.

Conversation starters

  • Ask your children what they learned about AIDS at school, or if they ever think about it.
  • Talk about an article you read or a news report you heard.
  • Leave a book or magazine article on HIV or AIDS around the house for them to read.

Listen to what they say. If you do not have the answers, call Community Health Services at 519 383-8331 or toll free 1-800-667-1839 for more information.

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