HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsHow much should we tell children about HIV and Aids?

How much should we tell children about HIV and Aids?

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Keep your zipper up and your pants on to avoid HIV transmission. Alternatively use protection if you are a sex maniac.

That is simply a straightforward response to the Aids pandemic.

One of the reasons that HIV is so dangerous is that a person can have the virus for a long time without knowing it. That person can then spread the virus to others through high-risk behaviours. HIV transmission can be prevented by:

abstaining from sex (oral, vaginal, or anal sex;)

always using latex condoms for all types of sexual intercourse; and

avoiding contact with the bodily fluids through which HIV is transmitted.

There is however resistance from certain quarters of our community that still condemns the use of condoms as it is perceived to allegedly promote promiscuity.

The Bible categorically condemns sex before marriage, but whether we like it or not, men and women are having sex and thousands are getting infected daily.

As Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Aids Day on December 1, I decided to just go out in the city and interrogate the matter particularly with the youth.

But earlier in November, I had a very sad encounter with a young person aged about 21 in Westlea who apparently is being accused of bedding so many girls in the area. He said started having sex when he was just nine.

The boy currently drives a lovely sports car bought by his parents who are in the Diaspora and he takes all the rentals from their three homes. He lives well and obviously has so much cash at his disposal.

When I asked him whether he was aware about youth that were living with HIV which they acquired during birth, he displayed ignorance.

I made it very clear to him that he was dicing with death and advised him to get into a university to further his studies instead of bed-hopping with gullible young women in the area.

He actually looked surprised and shocked as I drilled information about HIV. I also took him on a visit to people living with HIV that were leading normal lives and also one girl who is now 21 who was born with the condition.

The young man admitted that he had learnt about HIV at school during biology lessons and that nothing else was said about protection and other related information.

He looked so troubled.

I also had the opportunity to speak with one of the girls he has admittedly bedded from 2006.

I asked the girl why she was exposing herself into such a difficult situation.

She ironically may be using some family planning method to avoid pregnancy. Most young people are more worried about falling pregnant and not contracting HIV.

This brings out the question about just how much information a child should know about HIV infection and other sexual matters.

I personally think children, regardless of age, should be made aware of these issues because the truth is they are becoming sexually active at a very young and tender age.

Recently a woman in Dzivarasekwa said she heard an eight-year-old neighbour detailing how she has sex with another neighbour’s child aged 11.

When the matter was exposed, it turned out that she had already had had sexual encounters with a couple of other boys and men in the area. No protection was used.

The fact is that girls and boys are maturing faster than ever before and hence they are engaging in sex much earlier than what most parents think.

In Peru, a girl called Medina gave birth to a 2,7kg baby boy called Gerardo on May 14, 1939 when she was only five years old.

You can imagine how shocked her parents were when they were told that she was seven months pregnant.

Although Medina’s father was arrested on suspicion of child sexual abuse, he was later released due to lack of evidence.

Most young mothers are hardly 11 years only and this calls for a concerted effort by parents and guardians to create awareness on sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and Aids.

Here are 10 helpful tips for you in talking with children about any difficult topic:

Start early.

Initiate conversations with your child.
Even about sex and sexuality.

Create an open environment.

Communicate your own values.

Try to be honest.

Be patient.

Use everyday opportunities to talk.

Talk about it again. And, again.

Listen to your child.

According to Children Now, most parents want to do their best in talking with their kids about sex and sexuality, but they’re often not sure how to begin.

“Studies show that kids who feel they can talk with their parents about sex—because their moms and dads speak openly and listen carefully to them—are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviour as teens than kids who do not feel they can talk with their parents about the subject.

“So explore your feelings about sex. If you are very uncomfortable with the subject, read some books and discuss your feelings with a trusted friend, relative, physician, or clergy member. The more you examine the subject, the more confident you’ll feel discussing it.

“Teaching your children about sex demands a gentle, continuous flow of information that should begin as early as possible—for instance, when teaching your toddler where his nose and toes are, include the male and female sexual organ in your talks. As your child grows, you can continue her education by adding more materials gradually until she understands the subject well.”

Feedback: rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw

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