AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a disease caused by a virus called HIV, which shuts down the body's immune system. This means it breaks down the body's ability to protect itself from infection and disease. A person infected with the AIDS virus (HIV) will continue to grow weaker and weaker. It is likely that once a person has developed AIDS, they will die. The AIDS virus (HIV) may live in the human body for years and can be spread to others before any symptoms appear. Anyone can get AIDS.

AIDS virus (HIV) only lives in certain body fluids: they are BLOOD, SEMEN, VAGINAL SECRETIONS AND BREAST MILK. This means a person will not get the AIDS virus (HIV) from a handshake, a hug, a cough or sneeze, sweat or tears, a toilet, eating utensils or a telephone.

The most common ways the AIDS virus (HIV) is spread are:

  • Unprotected sex (vaginal, anal and oral) with someone who is infected.
  • Sharing use of infected needles (primarily IV drug use, but also possible from ear piercing, tattoos, steroids).
  • From an infected pregnant mother to her baby during childbirth and possibly by breastfeeding.
  • Through a blood transfusion from contaminated blood or blood products (testing of blood products since 1985 has significantly reduced this chance).

Remember, you can't tell if people are infected by the way they look. The more sexual partners a person has or their partner has, the greater the chance a person has of becoming infected with the AIDS virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted diseases. There is currently no cure for AIDS. (See Sexually Transmitted Diseases.) New treatments are being developed which are having limited success in postponing the onset of full blown AIDS.

The best and safest way to protect against infection with the AIDS virus (HIV) is to not have sex (abstinence) and not to use drugs. A person can get the AIDS virus (HIV) from just one sexual experience. If a person chooses to have sex, there are ways to protect him or herself such as always using a latex (rubber) condom (as well as a spermicide that contains Nonoxynol-9) and not having sex with people who have sores, blisters, or open cuts around their mouth or sex organs. Keep in mind that condoms cannot be counted on 100%. It is possible that a person can become infected with the AIDS virus (HIV), even if using a condom. Talking with a Child About AIDS

Growing up in an era with AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases isn't easy. Parents and adults involved with youth need to communicate with them about sex in frank and accurate terms. AIDS is a topic parents cannot avoid. Children watch TV, read the paper, and hear about it at school.

Talking with children about AIDS is not easy. Explaining the basics-that AIDS can be spread by using needles to shoot drugs, and through vaginal, anal and oral sex-may make the most open person uncomfortable. Most adults are uncomfortable discussing sex in such explicit terms with children, but it is crucial we learn to do so.

Before you begin, be sure you understand what AIDS is, how it is spread and how it can be prevented. If you are unsure, call or visit your local library, health clinic, doctor or AIDS program. Be clear about both the facts and values you want to communicate. Practice talking with your partner, family members or friends to get comfortable with the topic. You may be met with resistance and silence by a child, as they may see this as something you shouldn't talk about. They may sense your discomfort with the topic. A few good choices now can help a child avoid many serious problems later.

Here are some suggestions to help you talk to children about AIDS:

  • Keep your tone and words simple and direct.
  • Ask questions to make sure he or she understands what you are saying.
  • If you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, tell them so and let them know that no matter how uncomfortable you may feel, it is too important to not talk about.
  • Talk about AIDS as a disease that we all need to be concerned with.
  • If you don't know an answer, tell them and plan together on how to find out the answer.
  • Listen to their questions, you may be able to pick up on what they are afraid of and any misinformation they have about AIDS and correct it.
  • Use your child's age, questions and your own feelings about AIDS to determine how much information to share.
  • Don't preach or use scare tactics.
  • Be clear about your values.
  • Watch for ways to start conversations about AIDS ... a report on the car radio, a T.V. show, an article.
  • Be sure to talk more than once about AIDS.

There are free or low cost STD/HIV clinics in Ontario County. No appointment is needed. If you want to find out more information about clinic services call:

  • Rushville Health Clinic, (585)554-4400
  • Planned Parenthood, (585)396-9270

Remember that you do not have to do this alone. There are a number of resources available to you to help you protect your child and yourself from AIDS.

More information is avaiable from the following (click on the agency's name for more information):

AIDS Rochester Inc.
Provides case management and education regarding HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as prevention education and referrals.

Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes
Various counseling and educational programs, including parenting programs.

Family Counseling Service of the Finger Lakes
(315)789-2613 or (877)789-2613 toll free
Individual counseling, family counseling, play therapy, sexual abuse assessment and treatment, Hispanic youth groups.

FLACRA - Finger Lakes Alcoholism Counseling and Referral Agency
Outpatient counseling and detoxification for those aged 14 and older.

Happiness House Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy Association
The agency provides a variety of programs for pre-school children, including pre-school, child care, universal pre-kindergarten, developmental evaluations, special education, therapies and a summer recreational program.

Marcus Whitman Central School School Resource Officer
585-554-6441 Ext. 1950
Mediate disputes between students. Assist the administration with the investigation of violations of the school Code of Conduct. Assist with review, amendment and implementation of the District Emergency Plan and other safety related issues. Investigate violations of the NYS Penal Law and make subsequent arrests / referrals to Youth Court and/or other resources.

Migrant Education and Outreach Program
Provides academic tutoring, English as a second language, advocacy, career and educational counseling.

Ontario County Mental Health Center
The center provides psychotherapy, group treatment, family treatment and case management for those with a treatable mental health diagnosis.

Rape and Abuse Crisis Service of the Finger Lakes
(315)781-1093 or Hotline: (800)247-7273
The agency provides a 24-hour hotline, crisis intervention, counseling, medical and legal assistance for people involved in rape or abuse.

Thompson Health
(585) 396-6497
We primarily provide education, but give contact numbers and instructor email addresses to students in the class, and will handle 1:1 issues directly, or provide appropriate resources as needed.

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