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Children

How do you tell your child you have HIV?

There is no “right” way to talk to your children about having HIV. Every child will react differently to the news.

Some studies show that being open about your HIV diagnosis with your children is better than not telling them. Your kids may already know something is wrong, especially if you have been ill. Keeping your diagnosis a secret from them can confuse them and make them feel anxious.

Secrets can be stressful in another way too. If you tell your children about your HIV diagnosis, it may not be the best idea to ask them to keep your HIV status a secret from other family or friends. Several studies have shown that this can be very stressful to children and can bring on behavior problems.

Some children have a hard time learning that their parent has HIV. They may react by developing behavior issues or difficulties at school, and some start taking sexual risks themselves. Other kids may not react much at all.

For more information and assistance, see the Office on Women’s Health’s Telling Your Kids.

Disclosure as Prevention

Whether you have HIV or not, is never too early to talk about HIV with your children. By third grade, up to 93% of children have heard about HIV—but not enough children have accurate information about HIV and other STDs.

If you decide to tell your kids that you have HIV, you can use that opportunity to talk with them about how they can protect themselves from HIV in the future. It could be a golden opportunity to talk with them about the need to avoid risky sexual and drug-taking behaviors themselves.

Related Topics on AIDS.gov

Additional Resources

  • Children Now & CDC - Talking with Kids about HIV and AIDS Exit Disclaimer
    Talk with Your Kids is a national initiative to encourage parents to talk with their children early and often about tough issues like sex, HIV/AIDS, violence, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Last revised: 08/24/2009