Sometimes it’s hard to convince teens to listen to health information because they feel invincible or untouchable. But it’s important to break through the outlook that “it can’t happen to me.” Give your teens the necessary facts on precautions, preventions, dangers and treatments regarding both mild and severe health issues, including HIV and AIDS.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS.
- AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the late stage of HIV.
- HIV weakens the body’s ability to fight germs and disease.
- While treatment options are getting better and helping people with AIDS to live longer, there is still no cure for HIV or AIDS.
- Without HIV medication, most people develop AIDS about 10 to 15 years after becoming infected with HIV. With medication, people with HIV usually don’t develop AIDS.
- HIV with treatment is now considered a chronic disease, but it’s still not curable.
Knowledge is protection. Discuss ways people can and cannot be infected with HIV so your teen can better protect themselves in the future. Help your teen develop the skills necessary to avoid behaviors that may lead to HIV infection.
Remind your teen that:
- Not having sex (abstinence) and not sharing needles of any kind (for drug use, body piercing or tattoos) are the best ways to avoid HIV infection.
- Anyone can become infected with HIV by having unprotected sex—even just once—with an infected person.
- If a person chooses to have sex, correctly using a condom every time greatly reduces the risk of transmitting HIV, but it does not eliminate the risk.
- You can’t tell if people carry HIV by looking at them. Many people who have HIV don’t even know they’re infected. A blood test is the only way to confirm infection.
- Alcohol and other drugs affect decision-making skills and may make a person more likely to take risks that can lead to HIV infection.
- You are willing to listen and talk if your teen is thinking about becoming sexually active. Talk with your teen about handling peer pressure and how to avoid risky situations, such as sex and drug use. To feel safe talking openly with you, your teen needs to know that you won’t punish them for being honest.
Things That Don’t Cause HIV Infection
HIV is not spread by casual contact. This means a person cannot get HIV from:
- Going to school with someone who has HIV.
- Holding hands.
- Casual kissing or hugging.
- Playing sports.
- Sharing eating utensils.
- Using public toilets.
- Mosquito bites.
- Donating blood.
Things That May Cause HIV Infection
- The exchange of body fluids, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk, that contain the virus.
- Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with a person who has HIV.
- Injecting drugs with a syringe that has been used by a person with HIV.
- Sharing infected needles for body piercing or tattooing.
- An infected mother transmitting HIV to the baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
Reviewed by: Elizabeth W. Lee, M.D.
Last reviewed: June 2019