Talking to your children

How should I talk to my children about HIV?

In a world with HIV, young people need accurate information about the risks associated with sex. They need to be equipped with values and skills, including negotiating safer sex, that prepare them to make healthy choices in difficult situations.

Contrary to the fears of many parents, studies show that sound sex education at home or at school does not cause young people to have sex at an earlier age or more frequently. When based on sound scientific evidence, comprehensive school-based education on human sexuality and HIV provides young people with potentially life-saving information and offers opportunities for them to clarify their values about sex. If you are the parent of a school-age child, you should ask about the sex-education policies at your child's school and work to ensure that the school offers a high-quality programme.

Parents should also talk to their children about HIV. Those of us who are parents may, in fact, be in the best position to counterbalance the misinformation or distorted images about sex that children may glean from the media or their peers. The home is the best place to instil values of sexual responsibility and self-respect.

In a world with HIV, young people need accurate information about the risks associated with sex.

Discussing sex with our children is often a challenge. As a parent, if you are worried about your ability to raise the topic of sex with your child, you might seek advice from trusted friends, relatives, teachers or health workers. Getting tested for HIV gives you a chance to open a conversation at home with your partner and child, and be a role model for both them and your community. Some service organizations specializing in issues related to HIV or family planning may offer education for children. The UN system also recommends that discussions be organized at the duty station among parents to discuss strategies for speaking to our children. In some countries, the UN system has organized special sessions for children to learn more about HIV. In whatever way you decide to address sexual issues with your child, be prepared to be frank, to admit to any uncertainties, and to respect your child's privacy.

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Resources For Parents

Learn more about how HIV affects youth through these brief narratives by youth about their experiences with HIV. (Note: Links will open in a new brwoser window)

Not quite sure how to talk to your kids about HIV and AIDS?

Here are a few sites that might help. (Note: Links will open in a new browser window)

  • Talking to children about HIV
    A short introduction to this issue by AVERT, a UK based charity
  • Talking with Kids
    Excellent resource and visually appealing site that succinctly advises parents on how to approach the topic of HIV when talking with their children
  • Talking with teens about sex
    Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s site provides quick facts and helpful tips for parents to talk with their teens about sexual behavior and HIV.
  • Families Are Talking
    An information packed site that includes links for children, articles and media resources, and much more! Tailored for a Western audience.

Also, encourage your children to look at the various websites designed specifically for them: Resources for Youth.