Should we teach about HIV to our children?

doctorHIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus, which is spread through the sharing or exchange of bodily fluids; sexual intercourse is the most common means of spreading HIV. HIV affects the immune system, gradually weakening it and reducing the body’s ability to fight illness.

HIV is one of the most serious global health issues; the World Health Organisation estimates that there are approximately 34 million people around the world living with HIV. Most cases are found in the developing world, where education is poor, the availability of contraception is poor and babies are born with HIV as a result of contracting it from their mothers.

Sex education is a subject of debate and people have different views on when and how it should be taught, but educating people about the health risks associated with unprotected sex is important, especially as HIV is a lifelong, debilitating condition and it is infectious.

Should we teach children about HIV?

There is a great deal of debate among teachers, health experts and parents as to whether children should be educated about sex; however, statistics show that sexually transmitted infections have become increasingly prevalent among young people and these figures support the argument in favour of educating young people about sex. One of the main points of debate is the age at which children should be taught sex education; children are exposed to sex at a much earlier age than in previous generations, but there is a concern that by introducing sex education at an early age, this causes children to become more interested in sex.

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Educating children about the potential implications of having sex is really important; for many young people, having sex may be something they don’t really think about and they may want to have sex to impress friends without thinking about pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. It is vital that young people are aware that they are at risk of HIV and other STIs if they have unprotected sex and if young people are going to have sex, it is much better than they have safe sex and for this reason, it seems right to educate children about HIV.

Testing for HIV

HIV is spread through unprotected vaginal and anal sex and sharing needles and it can also be passed from a mother to an unborn child during pregnancy or a baby through breastfeeding. The vast majority of cases in the UK are associated with sexual intercourse.

The symptoms for HIV are very general and this is why HIV testing is so important; the earlier HIV is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated. You can visit your GP or a sexual health clinic for a test and HIV clinics also offer private HIV tests.

Preventing HIV

The best way to prevent HIV is to use condoms; condoms (and femadoms) are the only form of protecting against sexually transmitted infections, as well as unwanted pregnancies. If you are a drug user, avoid sharing needles.