In many countries children are deeply affected by the problems caused by HIV and AIDS both directly and indirectly. They are affected by the loss or illness of family members, teachers and health workers. They can be affected by stigma.
Older children can learn and share basic facts about reproductive and sexual health before puberty. Children can discuss and develop skills linked to delaying sex, sexual faithfulness and using condoms. They need a chance to voice their fears and raise questions and for these to be listened to and treated seriously.
Scroll down to read our Top Ten messages on HIV & AIDS for children to learn and share, plus ideas on what children can do to understand, find out more, take action and reflect on this topic.
Download our PDF for your copy of all the messages and how to get children started with learning and sharing.
Our body is amazing and every day there are special ways it protects us from getting diseases from the germs we breathe, eat, drink or touch.
Our body is amazing – it has a special way of protecting us, called the immune system. When something new comes into our body, like a germ or a virus, our body quickly gets to work to protect us and makes the invading germ or virus leave our body quickly. This is how the immune system stops germs and viruses making us ill.
HIV is a germ called a VIRUS (the V is for VIRUS). It is an especially DANGEROUS virus that stops our body protecting itself well from other germs.
When a virus gets into our body it tricks our body into doing what the virus wants it to do. The HIV virus is dangerous because it stops our immune system working properly so it can’t protect us from other germs and viruses. By stopping our immune system working properly the HIV virus can make our bodies weak and eventually we may develop a disease called AIDS.
HIV can be passed from mothers to babies. When mothers take ART it helps prevent babies getting HIV before they are born. Mothers taking ART can also prevent babies getting HIV from their breast milk.
Babies use their mothers’ blood to help them grow inside the womb, and when they are born they can come into contact with their mother’s blood. When a mother takes ART she can reduce the chance that her baby will get HIV. The ART medicine reduces the amount of HIV in the body. Mothers who are breastfeeding their babies and taking ART are less likely to pass HIV to their babies.
After time and without medicine, people with HIV develop AIDS. AIDS is a group of serious illnesses and these make the body weaker and weaker.
When HIV gets into our bodies it stops our immune system working properly. After a person has had HIV a long time and if they don’t have medicine, their immune system gets very tired and stops defending them against germs. When this happens, people with HIV get weak and can get many illnesses. This is when we say they have AIDS.
HIV is invisible and lives in blood and other liquids in the body that are made during sex. HIV can be passed 1. During sex 2. From infected mothers to babies and 3. In blood.
HIV lives in blood and liquids made by the body during sex – these are semen and vaginal fluid. We can pass HIV from person to person when we come into contact with their body’s fluids during sex or with their blood. Mothers can pass HIV to their babies before they are born because the mother’s blood helps the baby to grow. After a baby is born HIV can also pass from a mother to the baby when she breastfeeds her baby.
People protect themselves from getting HIV from sex by 1. Not having sex 2. Being in a faithful relationship or 3. By having sex using condoms (protected sex).
We can’t see HIV and we can’t see who has HIV and who has not. We can protect ourselves from HIV by not having sex. Or we can protect ourselves by being in a faithful relationship – a relationship with someone who doesn’t have HIV who only has sex with us. Or we can use a condom, sometimes called protection that stops us having contact with another person’s bodily fluids during sex. We protect ourselves from HIV by practising these behaviours to keep us safe during sex.
You can play, share food, drink, hold hands and hug people with HIV and AIDS. It is safe and you will not catch the virus this way.
People with HIV and AIDS need care and kindness. We can show we care by playing, holding hands, hugging and doing all the things we normally do with friends with people who have HIV. We can learn why we can’t catch HIV from everyday activities. We can learn how HIV is passed from person to person, so we know that it is safe to play with someone who has HIV or AIDS.
People with HIV and AIDS sometimes feel afraid and sad. Like us, they need love and support and so do their families. They need to talk about their worries.
Many families care for someone with HIV and AIDS and many young people have HIV and AIDS. We can learn more about HIV and AIDS so we can understand how people with HIV and AIDS might feel. We can learn to listen when someone with HIV or AIDS wants to talk about their feelings. We can help our school and our community become more supportive places for people with HIV and AIDS.
To help themselves and others, people who think they may have HIV or AIDS must go to a clinic or hospital for testing and counselling.
It’s important to get tested for HIV if someone thinks they may have HIV or AIDS. Getting tested allows people with HIV to get the medicines they need. Taking anti retro-viral therapy medicines can help people with HIV reduce their chance of passing it on to someone else. The hospital or clinic will give the person counselling about HIV and the test, what it means and what will happen next if they have HIV.
In most countries, people that are HIV positive get help and treatment. A medicine called ‘Anti-Retroviral Therapy’ (ART) helps them to live long lives.
ART are medicines that are taken together to stop the HIV virus being active in the body of someone with HIV. It makes the virus slow down and reduces the amount of HIV in the body. When someone knows they have HIV, they can take ART before they become ill with AIDS. Taking ART early can help stop HIV spreading from person to person. It is important to find out if you have HIV so that you can take ART before you get ill with AIDS.
WHAT CAN CHILDREN
ALL 10 MESSAGES…
HIV & AIDS