Educating Your Teens About AIDS and Other STDs Could Save Their Lives
Your cute young teenager may seem too innocent and well-behaved to be in danger of exposure to AIDS or similar diseases; however, it is important that teens be given the correct information while they are still young enough to listen to you!
Having worked in high schools for nearly a decade, I am sometimes surprised by the limited knowledge that numerous students have about sexually transmitted diseases … in particular, HIV/AIDS. Many parents are reluctant to have their students exposed to detailed information about these diseases in their schools. However, some parents are also uncomfortable discussing anything at home that has to do with sex. Unfortunately, the best time to discuss these sensitive subjects is BEFORE you believe your student has become sexually active. What should your teen know about HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases?
What is HIV?
HIV is a virus called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It attacks your immune system. Gradually, it allows you to become more susceptible to disease causing germs, and you can more easily develop serious infections.
What is AIDS?
AIDS is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. When the HIV virus causes your healthy immune cells (called CD4 cells) to drop very low, and you begin to get infections, they now say that you have AIDS. For some people it can take years for the HIV virus to cause AIDS … but, for others, it can develop relatively quickly.
There are some prescription medications that seem to slow down the process of HIV becoming AIDS. However, these medications ARE NOT CURES, and they do not prevent you from passing HIV on to someone else. Some of these medications can also cause side effects such as skin rashes, heart problems, diabetes, liver problems, and inflammation of the pancreas, which can cause death. In other words, even if the HIV / AIDS virus doesn't kill you right away, the medicine might. Although we do not hear as much about AIDS as we used to, this is not a disease to ignore.
What are some of the ways I can get it?
AIDS is transmitted when you are exposed to the body fluids of someone who is carrying the HIV virus. The other person may not realize that they have the virus, since symptoms can sometimes take a long time to show up. People who carry the HIV/AIDS virus may look and seem clean and healthy, free of any signs of visible disease. They can be any age. Both men and women can be carriers. The most common way that the HIV virus is transmitted is by having unprotected sex with a carrier. Another way that teens are exposed is when they share a used hypodermic needle with someone else while shooting up drugs. Being accidentally pricked by someone else's needle can also transmit the disease. Being exposed to the blood of a carrier, especially if you have a cut or open sore, is also a risk.
What can I do to prevent it?
First, let your teen know that the only way to completely protect themselves from the dangerous HIV virus, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases, is to practice complete abstinence! They also need to know that common methods of birth control, such as the Pill, offer no protection from the HIV virus. Using a condom offers some protection, but only when used correctly. Realistically, however, many teens still get pregnant while using a condom for birth control … therefore, they can still be exposed to the HIV virus! Using a combination condom and spermicide increases their protection, but it is still not perfect. Teens also need to know that AIDS can be passed on through oral sex. This is not a topic that many parents want to bring up, but it is very important.
In addition to sexual information, parents need to discuss drug use with their teens. Of course, teens should never take any mind-altering substance. Drugs are dangerous for many reasons. However, with regards to HIV / AIDS, teens should never inject a drug into their body, unless it is prescribed by a doctor, and being used as prescribed. They should never reuse needles!
If you are the parent of a teenager, I hope that you will take a few minutes to see that they have this important information before they are old enough to have a lot of freedom or get into a serious relationship. This means that you really should discuss these issues with your child in their early teens! If you are uncomfortable, or concerned about giving your teen the wrong impression about sex, drugs or HIV, talk to the minister of your religious institution to see if your religious community could sponsor their own instructional program about HIV and AIDS that is compatible with your religious beliefs. Whatever you do, don't neglect to have your teen informed about this important topic. What your teens don't know could kill them!
If you have teens in your life, you may also want to read:
You May Want To Give Your Teen a Book
They May Have More Questions Than You Can Answer
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