Does Your Child Know About the Dangers of AIDS?

Who is educating your child about safe sex practices and the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases? It should be you, because research suggests children want to learn about their sexuality from their parents, says Kim Miller, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist and research sociologist in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The estimated number of diagnoses of AIDS from 1981 through 2002 in the United States is 886,575. Adult and teen AIDS cases total 877,275 with 718,002 cases in men and 159,271 among women. Through the same time period, 9,300 AIDS cases were estimated in children younger than 13. Estimated number of deaths of people with AIDS is 501,669, including 496,354 adults and adolescents, and 5,315 children younger than 15.

CDC research shows children are more likely to discuss risks with their sexual partners and more likely to use condoms if their parents have talked to them about sex, Miller says.

“If you don’t talk to your kids about sex, your message is not getting heard,” Miller says. “A lot of times, parents are waiting for their kids to ask. But a lot of times, kids don’t ask, so it’s important to start talking.”

What to do and how

Here’s a list of suggestions about how you can be a good resource of reliable information about sexual activity, HIV and AIDS for your children:

  • Talk early and often. Your children start hearing sexual innuendos through TV, movies and music at a young age, and their knowledge of sex is far less than their curiosity, Miller says. Studies show that educating children about condoms before they become sexually active leads to greater use of condoms as they grow older, Miller says.
  • Monitor your child’s activities. Studies show children are less likely to be involved in sexually risky behavior if their parents keep track of where they are, what they are doing and whom they are with, Miller says.
  • Be prepared and be a good listener. Be there for your children when they have questions. Listen and be ready with an age-appropriate answer. If your children ask about your experiences, explain that it’s your personal business. “Many parents don’t talk because they are afraid of what their kids may ask them,” Miller says.
  • Find the right time to start a discussion. A sexually suggestive comment in a TV show or movie can be turned into the basis of a conversation if you ask your child about their reaction. Miller says she created a “teachable moment” with her daughter when they saw two giraffes mating at a zoo.