How to approach and manage HIV education
HIV education usually focuses on adults. It is, however, critically important to educate your children around HIV and AIDS. We share a few reasons why educating children about HIV is important.
When should HIV education start?
We typically think of the education and awareness of adults when it comes to HIV, because we tend to think of HIV as an ‘adult’ disease. This, of course, is not the case. Anyone at any age remains at risk of contracting HIV. When it comes to informing and educating our children, giving them ‘Too Much Information’ can never be the concern.
HIV awareness and education for children
Children learn to attach stigma to HIV because they mimic the behaviour of others around them and invariably adopt the attitudes they are exposed to. By educating children and young people early on, we’ll curtail the stigma borne of ignorance, and our children will grow into knowledgeable and compassionate adults. It’s not just a matter of curbing the transmission of HIV – changing the way people think about the disease is just as critical.
Educating children who are at risk of contracting HIV:
In addition to preventing children from being drawn into perpetuating the stigma, there is the risk of them becoming infected themselves. In South Africa, we have a high HIV prevalence in the 15-24 age group, particularly among women and girls. According to the CDC’s US-based research, “Most adults with AIDS were likely infected with HIV when they were teens or young adults”. Shifting the focus to improving awareness and understanding of the disease by the younger age groups should start at home.
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What to say about HIV to children, and how:
While we can understand that the right thing to do is educate our children on the topic of HIV, we can all appreciate that it’s tough to talk to kids and young people about sex. The ‘when’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of this discussion is dependent on the age of the child.
How to discuss HIV/AIDS with children aged 5-8:
At this age, concentrate on two main themes: the importance of healthy habits (like washing your hands) and the fact that HIV is not easy to get. Keep the facts simple. For example, explain that HIV is a germ that gets into some people’s blood but that it’s not like a cold that’s ‘easy to catch’. Make sure that you encourage empathy from this early age.
How to discuss HIV/AIDS with children aged 9-12:
This is the time to start talking to your children about sex, sexual orientation, sexually transmitted diseases, safe sex and HIV. Discuss the various ways that the virus can be transmitted and keep the focus on providing the facts. Correct misperceptions about HIV being a ‘gay disease’.
How to discuss HIV/AIDS with children aged 13-19:
Young people have typically had more exposure to HIV by this phase. The key messages here are focused on prevention:
- Abstinence is the best way to prevent the spread of HIV.
- Use a condom.
- Always use a clean needle for tattooing or body piercing.
- Never share a needle.
- Don’t use drugs or alcohol – they affect your decision making.
There are plenty of websites available that give good advice and detailed suggestions on how to have these conversations.
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Avert. n.d. [online] Available at: <http://www.avert.org/> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
Halton. n.d. [online] Available at: <http://www.halton.ca> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
Health.ny.gov. n.d. New York State Department Of Health. [online] Available at: <https://www.health.ny.gov> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
Kidshealth.org. n.d. Nemours Kidshealth – The Web’s Most Visited Site About Children’s Health. [online] Available at: <http://kidshealth.org/> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
We all have questions.
Below are some of the answers to the most common questions around HIV.
What is usually the first sign of HIV?
After becoming infected with HIV, most patients only experience moderate flu-like symptoms. Typically, the illness is sudden in onset and is characterised by fever, swelling of the lymph glands, a measles-like rash all over the body, ulcers in the mouth and sometimes on the genitalia.
What are the 4 stages of HIV?
- Stage 1: Infection – Exposure to infected bodily fluids.
- Stage 2: Asymptomatic – HIV quickly spreads and the patient becomes seropositive for HIV antibodies.
- Stage 3: Symptomatic – The immune system is now engaged in a constant battle with the rapidly replicating virus.
- Stage 4: AIDS – At this stage, the patient’s CD4+ count is 200 cells per mm3 or less.
How soon can HIV be detected by a blood test?
No test can detect HIV immediately after infection. The time between initial infection and a detectable viral load is called the window period. It can take anywhere from 2-12 weeks to after exposure, to detect whether you are HIV-positive or not, depending on which testing method is used.
How long does it take to show symptoms of HIV?
Following initial infection, there is a period of intense, unchecked viral replication that occurs. It usually takes 2 to 4 weeks after infection and can last about 1 to 2 weeks, after which there tends to be a slight recovery, and the infected individual is considered to be seropositive for HIV antibodies.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted from one person to another through the exchange of body fluids. The main method of transmission in South Africa is through unprotected sexual activity.
Does HIV test affect life insurance?
Being HIV-positive can affect standard life insurance policies, particularly if your status changes from HIV-negative to HIV-positive within a particular age range. That’s why AllLife covers all lives. Your HIV status doesn’t prevent you from getting cover with us.
Can HIV-positive women have children?
Yes, HIV-positive women can enjoy healthy pregnancies and give birth to healthy HIV-negative babies, through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme. PMTCT has been highly effective in reducing the HIV transmission risk to under 1%.
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