AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a disease caused by a virus called HIV, which shuts down the body's immune system. This means it breaks down the body's ability to protect itself from infection and disease. A person infected with the AIDS virus (HIV) will continue to grow weaker and weaker. It is likely that once a person has developed AIDS, they will die. The AIDS virus (HIV) may live in the human body for years and can be spread to others before any symptoms appear. Anyone can get AIDS.
AIDS virus (HIV) only lives in certain body fluids: they are BLOOD, SEMEN, VAGINAL SECRETIONS AND BREAST MILK. This means a person will not get the AIDS virus (HIV) from a handshake, a hug, a cough or sneeze, sweat or tears, a toilet, eating utensils or a telephone.
The most common ways the AIDS virus (HIV) is spread are:
Remember, you can't tell if people are infected by the way they look. The more sexual partners a person has or their partner has, the greater the chance a person has of becoming infected with the AIDS virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted diseases. There is currently no cure for AIDS. (See Sexually Transmitted Diseases.) New treatments are being developed which are having limited success in postponing the onset of full blown AIDS.
The best and safest way to protect against infection with the AIDS virus (HIV) is to not have sex (abstinence) and not to use drugs. A person can get the AIDS virus (HIV) from just one sexual experience. If a person chooses to have sex, there are ways to protect him or herself such as always using a latex (rubber) condom (as well as a spermicide that contains Nonoxynol-9) and not having sex with people who have sores, blisters, or open cuts around their mouth or sex organs. Keep in mind that condoms cannot be counted on 100%. It is possible that a person can become infected with the AIDS virus (HIV), even if using a condom. Talking with a Child About AIDS
Growing up in an era with AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases isn't easy. Parents and adults involved with youth need to communicate with them about sex in frank and accurate terms. AIDS is a topic parents cannot avoid. Children watch TV, read the paper, and hear about it at school.
Talking with children about AIDS is not easy. Explaining the basics-that AIDS can be spread by using needles to shoot drugs, and through vaginal, anal and oral sex-may make the most open person uncomfortable. Most adults are uncomfortable discussing sex in such explicit terms with children, but it is crucial we learn to do so.
Before you begin, be sure you understand what AIDS is, how it is spread and how it can be prevented. If you are unsure, call or visit your local library, health clinic, doctor or AIDS program. Be clear about both the facts and values you want to communicate. Practice talking with your partner, family members or friends to get comfortable with the topic. You may be met with resistance and silence by a child, as they may see this as something you shouldn't talk about. They may sense your discomfort with the topic. A few good choices now can help a child avoid many serious problems later.
Here are some suggestions to help you talk to children about AIDS:
There are free or low cost STD/HIV clinics in Ontario County. No appointment is needed. If you want to find out more information about clinic services call:
Remember that you do not have to do this alone. There are a number of resources available to you to help you protect your child and yourself from AIDS.
More information is avaiable from the following (click on the agency's name for more information):