AIDS: Living with HIV
By the year 2005 AIDS has become a six leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-old Americans. In the United Kingdom after the year 2004 the amount of children who have a parent who is HIV-positive or has AIDS reached the level of 10,000. Some of these children will be told about their parent’s illness, others won’t be told until after their parent’s death. Which way is better? Should these children know the truth or is it better for them to be happy in their innocence?
Here is a story of a 14 year-old boy John who knows that his mother is ill but doesn’t know why. John doesn’t go on school trips, play football or even see his friends very much apart from when he is at school. His teachers think he is lazy because he never does his homework, but the truth is very different; John spends most of his time cleaning the house, shopping, looking after his sister and giving his mother medicine. His mother is HIV-positive and he is the only person who looks after her. John’s mother will probably die before someone tells him the whole story. The social workers believe that he won’t have been prepared for the shock that the news that a parent has died of AIDS can bring. It will be terrible for him because now he can’t get support and help from other people.
Daniel’s mother told him what was wrong with her when Daniel was twelve. She wanted to tell him because it was obvious that she wasn’t well. He freaked when she told him and was angry with her for getting ill, however this can be a common reaction. Daniel didn’t seem able to cope and he is always worried that she won’t tell him when her illness becomes more severe. He worries about her all the time but he hasn’t told anyone at his school. Daniel says he would be bullied if anyone found out. Many people think that this is a good reason not to tell their children, because keeping something secret when it is making them unhappy can be unbearable. They will be more likely to become more introverted or to drink or take drugs as a way to escape reality.
Sometimes children must be told because they need to be tested themselves. However, in many cases, this is not necessary. Young children often can’t understand why their parents are ill; they are often ignored at school because other kids’ parents have told them to stay away from the kid whose parent has AIDS. HIV-positive parents don’t want their children to feel different and isolated so they don’t tell anyone.