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Parents, teachers, peer leaders and other role models should provide adolescents with a safe environment and a range of life skills that can help them make healthy choices and practise healthy behaviour.
It is important for children to learn about HIV at an early age. When children become adolescents, they need accurate and full information on making and negotiating healthy life choices. This will help them avoid becoming infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Adolescents need to be supported in learning the life skills that can help them protect themselves in situations where they could be vulnerable to HIV infection. These skills include problem solving, decision-making, goal setting, critical thinking, communication, assertiveness and self-awareness. Adolescents also need skills for coping with stressful or confrontational situations.
Adolescents and young people look to parents, teachers, peer leaders and other role models for guidance. These role models should develop their base of knowledge on HIV so they will know how to communicate about HIV and how to share important life skills.
Adolescents need to know the risks of HIV. They need to understand how it is passed through unprotected sex with an infected person or through the use of contaminated needles or syringes for injecting drugs. They should know about safer practices and the consequences of lifestyle choices. They should also know how HIV is not transmitted so they can reject myths and prevent discrimination against people living with HIV that is based on unfounded fears of contagion.
It is important to know and reduce the risks of getting HIV from unprotected sex:
The risk of getting HIV can be reduced if people do not have sex. If they have sex, correct and consistent use of male or female condoms is important. To reduce risk, people can:
In combination with safer practices, male circumcision reduces the possibility of transmission of HIV infection from female to male.
The more sex partners people have, the greater the risk that one of them will have HIV and pass it on (if they do not use male or female condoms consistently and correctly).
However, anyone can have HIV – it is not restricted to those with many sex partners. People who do not show signs of infection may carry the virus. Testing is the only sure way to tell.
A well-lubricated condom is essential for protection during vaginal or anal intercourse.
HIV can be transmitted through oral sex, although available information suggests the risk is minimal as compared to vaginal and anal sex. However, oral sex can transmit STIs which can increase the risk of HIV transmission. In the case of oral-penile sex, a male condom is recommended.
Because most sexually transmitted infections can be spread through genital contact, a condom should be used before genital contact begins.
Drinking alcohol or taking drugs interferes with judgement. Even those who understand the risks of HIV and the importance of safer sex may become careless after drinking or using drugs.
People who have sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are at greater risk of getting HIV and spreading HIV to others:
STIs, including HIV, are infections that are spread through sexual contact. They can be spread through the exchange of body fluids (semen, vaginal fluid or blood) or by contact with the skin of the genital area. STIs are spread more easily if there are lesions such as blisters, abrasions or cuts. STIs often cause lesions, which contribute to spreading the infection.
STIs often cause serious physical suffering and damage.
Any STI, such as gonorrhoea or syphilis, can increase the risk of HIV infection or HIV transmission. Anyone suffering from an STI has a much higher risk of becoming infected with HIV if they have unprotected sexual intercourse with an HIV-infected person.
Some STI symptoms:
Not every problem in the genital area is an STI. Some infections, such as candidiasis (yeast infection) and urinary tract infections, are not spread by sexual intercourse. But they can cause great discomfort in the genital area.
HIV can be spread by unsterilized, contaminated needles or syringes, most often those used for injecting drugs, and by other instruments:
An unsterilized needle or syringe can pass HIV and other infections, such as hepatitis, from one person to another if contaminated with infected blood. Nothing should be used to pierce a person's skin unless it has been sterilized.
People who inject themselves with drugs or have unprotected sex with injecting drug users are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV. People who inject drugs should always use a clean needle and syringe. They should never use another person's needle or syringe.
Injections should be given only by a trained health worker using an auto-disable syringe (a syringe that can be used only once).
Any kind of cut using an unsterilized object such as a razor or knife can transmit HIV. The cutting instrument must be fully sterilized for each person, including family members, or rinsed with bleach and/or boiling water.
Equipment for dental treatment, tattooing, facial marking, ear or body piercing, and acupuncture is not safe unless the equipment is sterilized for each person. The person performing the procedure should take care to avoid any contact with blood during the procedure.