Talking About HIV with 6th Graders

Bee’s class has been studying microbiology and the topic of HIV came up. It was clear that the students had some misconceptions, so I offered to come in and talk to the class. I’m honestly impressed that her teacher thought it was a great idea. After I made the offer, I got a bit nervous. What if they ask questions I can’t answer? I suppose they will, but my purpose is to talk, not so much about the science of HIV, but about the  social issues.

There are many simple things that kids don’t know. For instance:

HIV and AIDS are not the same thing.

You can’t tell that somebody has HIV by looking at them.

With good medical care, people with HIV can have long lives.

They can marry, have children, have great careers, and pursue their dreams.

And the list goes on.

I plan to talk about how to be wise about staying healthy. For instance, I used to teach my children, “Never, never touch another person’s blood.” Recently, my friend who is a pediatric infectious disease specialist told me that they now teach kids, “If it’s wet, and it’s not yours, don’t touch it.”  That may sound a little crude, but it’s good advice.

And while I’m on the topic, the other thing I’ve taught my kids is never share toothbrushes or razors.  How many times when I was a teen did I use my friends’ razors?  Too many, I’m sure!  We even apply that within our family.  Each girl has her own, clearly labeled razor – no sharing.  The big boys also have their own razors.

These are good basic instructions for life. It’s not just about HIV; Hepatitis B and C, and other diseases can also be transmitted through blood.

On a humorous note, Bee asked if she could pick out my clothes for today. I agreed, but I drew the line at letting her do my hair.  She makes me laugh. She knows that she has more fashion sense than I do, and far better make up skills.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

On a completely different topic, if you are considering joining us at the Embracing Orphans Retreat in Colorado, be sure to register in the next two days to get the discounted price.  It’s going to be a great retreat with wonderful ladies; I hope you can make it.

[Update: The talk went well.  I was impressed with the good questions asked by the kids. We talked about transmission, universal precautions, practical safety matters, why meds are more available in the US than the developing world, the importance of good health care for people living with HIV, stigma, and more. After I left I thought of more I wish I had said, but overall, I am pleased. We’ll see what Bee says when she gets home.]

Have a good day, friends.





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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Em
    February 27, 2013

    Ha! I remember Bee being so excited to straighten my hair AND pick out my outfits last time I visited :-). Tell her I hope she’ll help me be fashionable this time, too. Love her. Love you!

  2. Ann
    February 27, 2013

    I'm sure you already know this, but remember that you can always default to, "That's the kind of thing it might be better to talk about with your parents." Because, as I'm also sure you know, some kids like to ask questions just to stir the pot.
    Remember how Princess Diana was one of the first public figures to touch people with AIDS? That was a big deal back then…

  3. Leese
    February 27, 2013

    That is SO funny that she not only wanted to dress you but also do your hair and makeup! What a riot! You'll have to let us know what Bee comes home saying that her classmates said once you were gone.

    And so glad at the encouraging progress you guys saw with Dimples.

    Prayers continue!!

  4. mom of 8
    March 3, 2013

    Let's not forget- no sharing of earrings unless they have been cleaned with alcohol.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 3, 2013

      That's not a recommendation I am aware of regarding HIV, but it is good basic hygiene. Another basic along those lines is not sharing eye or lip make up because they can carry a lot of germs.


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