When is a person old enough to understand HIV?

Posted on: 27th January 2014

“Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.”

Chinese proverb

In August of last year, Body & Soul made a major change and lowered the threshold at which all members attending groups need to be fully aware of how affects their lives, to the age of 10 years old.

Embedded in a children’s rights based approach, this decision has positioned our service for 10-12 year olds (‘The BaSe’ to those in the know) as a pioneering programme providing a uniquely supportive space for our young members’ voices to be heard.

Body & Soul believes that children benefit from and have the right to information about their health, or a health diagnosis within the family. World Health Organisation guidelines recommend that naming HIV begins when a child is 6 years old unless there is a specific reason to postpone the process.

So, when is a person old enough to understand HIV?

A vast body of scholarly research is devoted to exploring how our knowledge-making emerges from modes of inquiry; that is, the questions we ask of ourselves, of others and of the world around us.

In our society, children are not typically sanctioned as producers of this kind of knowledge and arguably traditional systems of education work to stifle their natural processes of inquiry.

Below are a few questions the BaSe asked about HIV in their session last week. As you read them, consider the wider concerns behind each one. Do they prompt any further questions for you?

Can people give it (HIV) away?

Why do we use HIV medicine if it doesn’t cure it?

If your Dad has HIV, does that mean your Mum has it too?

Why is HIV an incurable virus?

Why is HIV stronger than white blood cells?

Why does HIV medicine taste horrible?

Is HIV the same as AIDS?

Can a doctor inject HIV in you?

How do people have unprotected sex?

Will we learn about HIV in school?

How do you ask for a condom in a shop?

What do you do if you have sexual intercourse and don’t know or do know you have HIV?

When was HIV made and how was it made?

…from these, we can form our own questions:

When is a person old enough to understand HIV?

When is a person old enough to stop asking questions?

If you know a child aged between 10-12 years who is aware of how HIV affects their life, we would love to hear from you and talk to you about the huge benefits of them coming to spend time with the BaSe group. Similarly, Body & Soul has 18 years’ experience of talking to children of all ages about HIV and supporting families to find the right time and space to name HIV.

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