A parent’s job is to guide their children safely to adulthood, yet many parents or caregivers – for whatever reasons – neglect the very real risk to their children of contracting HIV.
HIV is the second largest cause of death of adolescents globally and the first in Africa.
New HIV infections are concentrated in older adolescents and young people, particularly adolescent girls and young women.
South Africa has the highest number of estimated new infections per week – over 2 000 – among women aged 15 to 24.
PARENTING FOR PREVENTION
Networking HIV and AIDS Community of Southern Africa (NACOSA), in partnership with Child Welfare South Africa, recommends the following simple ways that parents or caregivers can become prevention champions as part of South Africa’s HIV and AIDS response.
1. Educate yourself about HIV and AIDS. There are a lot of damaging myths and misconceptions that fuel stigma and prevent people from getting access to things that will help prevent HIV.
Good, accurate information is available from South Africa’s She Conquers campaign – sheconquerssa.co.za.
2. Put your own prejudices and embarrassment aside and listen to your children without judgement.
Answer their questions honestly – they will learn about sex somehow, so make sure they have accurate information.
Children need to be heard and understood by their parents and open, non-judgmental communication is the cornerstone of prevention with young people.
3. Take an interest in your children’s lives. Know where they are, who their friends are, what they are watching and consuming, particularly online.
Be alert to any signs of substance abuse. Support them in their schooling life, motivate them to work hard, be involved in school activities and finish school.
4. Have the difficult conversations. Talk to your children about sex, sexuality and the risks associated with sex like sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.
Research indicates that there are positive effects from teaching children about HIV and AIDS at a younger age. Information should be age-appropriate and match your child’s level of development.
ALSO READ: 18 Symptoms indicating you may have Aids
5. Model behavior that will help your children develop respect for themselves and the rights of others.
Parents are their children’s first and most influential role models – they look to you to see how to behave in the world.
Show them how to make healthy choices and display kindness and respect for others.
6. Look after yourself. Parents and caregivers with good mental and physical health can devote more undivided time and attention to the children in their care.
Make sure you are around to see them become successful adults.
Source: Networking HIV and AIDS Community of Southern Africa (NACOSA)
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