Author: M. G.
Today I came across an article on Health-News.co.uk asking a pretty controversial question: 'Should we teach children about HIV?' Obviously, I think we should, actually we must. The main cause of HIV transmission is unsafe sex, more and more new HIV+ diagnoses are happening among young people and youngsters have their first sexual intercourse at an earlier age than in the past. Plus, western society is all about sex, so it's pretty hypocritical to be scared of traumatizing children by giving them an early knowledge about sex. I received my first lesson about AIDS pretty young myself, but it was because of an accident. I remember I was playing in the garden of my school with my classmates - I was around 4 or 5 - and one of them suddenly arrived with something in his hands. He was so excited and he had a very good reason: he had found something really strange that nobody else had ever seen before. Everybody was so curious but the teacher, as soon as she saw what was happening, ran towards us, screaming from fear and yelling not to touch that thing. It was an injection needle that somebody threw from the street inside the garden of our school.
In Italy, during the 90s, the main cause of HIV infection was related to the exchange of infected needles and not through unprotected intercourse. Afterwards, our teachers explained to everybody what was happening, given that nobody had ever explained to us what AIDS was. However, my most vivid memory is another one: while we were attending this lesson about HIV/AIDS, I remember I could see my other teacher going around the limits of our garden, slowly, looking down, searching for other needles on the ground. For a very long time I was afraid to run on a lawn because of the risk of stepping on a needle and the sad fact is that it wasn't paranoia, it was a safety measure. At that time, needles were a real risk and it wasn't rare to see them abandoned on the ground.
I don't know if my teachers would have preferred talking about sex and safe sex instead of drugs and heroine users, but I admire them so much because they just saw a risk and took action to prevent it from hurting us. To talk about HIV and AIDS with a kid also means explaining that the world we live in can be really bad. This is not a reason to be scared, especially because children are usually smarter than adults. I think that the main problem is not the fragility of a child's mind, but our own weakness. To talk about such an issue with a child can be awkward, especially because children are curious and want to know as much as they can about what's going on in the adult world. I think that, first of all, we should ask ourselves another question ‘Are we ready to explain to children what AIDS is?'