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Authors: Jessica Dunn with Judith A. Myers-Walls, Ph.D., CFLE 

You may never need to talk about HIV and AIDS with the children in your care. Most people can go through a day without thinking about those illnesses. Children might hear some things about them, though. Then you may need to answer questions. It is also possible that you could enroll a child with AIDS in your program. In any case, all childcare providers should know about the precautions they should take to keep from passing on these or other diseases. Learn how children might be at risk for AIDS and share this information with parents.

If the children in your care ask about HIV and AIDS, discuss the diseases in terms they can understand. You can explain that a person can get the diseases when blood from a sick person gets inside another person. It can get inside through a cut or a sore or when a doctor gives a person blood. Help them understand that they cannot get AIDS by just drinking after someone or touching someone with AIDS. School-age children should understand that using illegal IV drugs can be a way to get HIV/AIDS, because the needles come in contact with blood and other body fluids. Some children might be worried that they or someone they love can get the disease. Help them be realistic about whether they are at risk or not.

Keep an open line of communication with children. Let them know that you are willing to talk about difficult topics like this. Also, help children and adolescents feel confident about themselves and their bodies. This makes an important impact. When children and adolescents feel good about themselves, they are likely to feel comfortable asking important questions of their parents, caregivers, and other adults. If children feel good about their bodies, they are less likely to be involved in behaviors that would put them at risk for HIV/AIDS.

As children grow into adolescence, they will understand more about HIV and AIDS, but many will think that it can never happen to them. Help adolescents understand possible risks and how they can protect themselves. Explain how HIV/AIDS is related to unprotected sexual contact. This is important because adolescents might become involved in sexual activity at a young age. Adolescents might be very aware of and concerned about death, sex, and adulthood. Help them find the information they need.

Key things to remember

Be a good role model
     • Children learn many of their behaviors by watching adults. When an important adult takes many risks, the child might
       copy that same risky behavior.

Build self-confidence
     • Self-confidence helps children resist pressure from their friends and make responsible decisions on their own.

Build positive feelings about sexuality
     • People who feel good about themselves and their sexuality are more likely to protect themselves.

Teach decision-making skills
     • It is important for children to learn to make decisions for themselves, rather than always being told what to do. Let them
       practice with small decisions. That will help them later in life when they are faced with larger challenges.

Establish trust
     • Children need to know that they have someone to go to for help or just to ask questions. Be patient and trustworthy so
       children feel comfortable talking with you about difficult or uncomfortable issues.

Go to:
 • Tips for providers
           • Red flags – recognizing sexual abuse
           • Books for parents and children
            Sexuality education policy statement

For more information, contact Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE at

Please feel free to link to, print off, redistribute, or reprint
  any of these materials as long as the original credits remain intact.

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