Parents & Teachers:
Information on Teens & HIV/AIDs
Sometimes, it may be difficult to reach your teens with health and safety information because they feel invincible or untouchable regarding serious diseases and health/safety concerns. It falls to the parents and/or guardians to educate their teens – it is important that you break through your teen’s outlook of, “that can’t happen to me,” in order to provide them with the necessary facts on precautions, preventions, dangers, and treatments regarding both mild and severe health issues.
One very important topic that you should cover with your teen is about HIV and AIDs – how to protect against these diseases, how infection can/cannot occur, etc. Below are some tips and advice to help open the conversation between you and your teen regarding HIV and AIDS.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS.
- AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
- HIV weakens the body's ability to fight germs and disease.
- While treatment options are helping people with AIDS to live longer, there is still no cure for AIDS.
- Most people develop AIDS about 10 to 15 years after becoming infected with HIV.
- Between 1990 and 1995, the incidence of AIDS among people ages 13 to 25 years old rose by almost 20%.
- A blood test is the only way to know for sure whether a person is infected with HIV. There are no visual cues to show that a person may be infected.
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Tips for Parents
Discuss ways people can/cannot be infected with HIV.
It is important that you communicate with your teen regarding the basics of HIV. They need to know how HIV infection occurs in order to better protect themselves in the future – especially since HIV infections cause AIDS, which still has no cure.
Knowledge is protection.
As a parent of a teen, you have the opportunity to influence your teen's health behaviors. You can do this by sharing information regarding precautions, prevention, and the dangers of HIV infection. Help your teen develop the skills necessary to avoid behaviors that may lead to infection with HIV.
Remind your teen that...
- Not having sex (abstinence) and not sharing needles of any kind (for example: sharing needles for drug use, body piercing, and/or tattoos) are the best ways to avoid HIV infection.
- Anyone can become infected with HIV by having unprotected sex – even just once – with an infected person.
- If a person chooses to have sex, correctly using a latex condom (rubber) every time will greatly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV.
- You can't tell if people are infected with HIV by looking at them. Many people who have HIV do not even know they are infected. A blood test is the only way to know for sure whether a person is infected with HIV.
- Alcohol and other drugs affect decision-making skills and may make a person more likely to take risks that can lead to HIV infection.
- You are willing to listen and talk if your teen is thinking about becoming sexually active.
Talk with your teen about how to avoid risky situations – such as refusing sex and drugs – in ways that allow him or her to fit in with their peers. In order to feel comfortable about talking openly with you, your teen needs to know that you will not punish him or her for being honest.
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Ways HIV infection cannot be caused
HIV is not spread by casual contact. This means a person cannot become HIV infected from:
- Going to school with someone who has HIV
- Holding hands
- Casual kissing
- Playing sports
- Sharing eating utensils
- Using public toilets
- Mosquito bites
- Donating blood
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Ways HIV infection can be caused
HIV is transmitted through the exchange of blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Thus, HIV may be transmitted in the following ways:
- Having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a person who has HIV
- Injecting drugs with a syringe that has already been used by a person who has HIV
- Sharing infected needles for body piercing or tattooing.
- An infected mother can pass HIV on to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding
Used by permission
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Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
AIDSinfo: HIV/AIDS Information Service.
Or call: 1-(800)-HIV-0440
About HIV/AIDS for Young People
Additionally, you may wish to consult these sources for more information regarding HIV/AIDS and your teen:
- Your teen's health care provider.
- Your local hospital or public health department
- National AIDS Hotline
Reviewed by: Adolescent Interest Group
Last reviewed: August 2013