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Talking to your kids about HIV

Two teenage boys sitting on a bench.

You can help keep your kids safe by talking openly and sharing the facts about HIV.

OK, so you've had the "sex talk" with your kids. As a result, they understand how their bodies work and where babies come from. They may even know something about sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

But have you talked with them about HIV and AIDS, specifically?

It's an important topic to cover, and all kids can benefit from learning about it.

Over 20% of new HIV diagnoses occur in people ages 13 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And most people get the virus through unprotected sex.

That gives parents a clear place to start to help protect their children from the disease.

Kids at risk

According to CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids may be at higher risk for HIV if they:

  • Don't get the sexual health education they need, or don't get it early enough.
  • Don't use condoms appropriately.
  • Have other STIs.
  • Have several sexual partners.
  • Are young gay or bisexual men who have sex with older partners.
  • Use injection drugs.
  • Don't have access to medicines that can prevent HIV.
  • Face stigma, fear or homophobia that keeps them from seeking support.

It's important for kids to know, though: Even if they don't think they're at high risk, anyone who has unprotected sex can get HIV.

Share the facts

You can help keep your kids safe from HIV and other STIs by talking openly and sharing facts about how to avoid the infection.

For example, kids should know that they can lower their risk by:

  • Not having sex.
  • Using condoms correctly.
  • Not sharing syringes.
  • Taking medicine to prevent HIV.

If you're worried about correctly answering your child's questions, ask your doctor for help.

Share your perspective

Of course, any discussion with your children about HIV is part of a larger, ongoing conversation about sex.

According to the American Sexual Health Association, research shows that when teens feel close to their parents, and parents clearly talk about their values, they are less likely to have sex at an early age.

So let them know what you believe—and that you'll be there to love and support them no matter what.

Reviewed 10/25/2023

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