Disclosure: This post is made possible by support from the We Can Stop HIV One Conversation at a Time campaign. All opinions are my own.
Do you talk to your kids about Aids and HIV? I mean my parents never talked to us. That’s not how it worked in Latino families back then. The rule was don’t have sex until you were married so why would your parents tell you about sexually transmitted diseases when YOU weren’t supposed to be having sex anyways. That would be like giving expressed consent and every Latina girls, there is no consent to have sex until you are married or dead. Only just because you don’t talk about it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
In our culture, people get married earlier and, at least in my neighborhood, Latino kids were having sex before most of the Caucasian kids. Not me, because I took my dad’s threats of killing me if I did very seriously. I’m pretty sure that he would have so I did what any good Catholic, Latino kid would do, I waited until I went to college. But there I went, off to college with no information because my parents refused to discuss what they refused to believe could be going on.
Well, at least that was how it was for the girls in our family. The boys, well that was another story, I remember condoms being slipped to my brothers. You know to prevent pregnancy.
HIV and AIDS were never discussed in the house.
Back when I was a teenager, AIDS and HIV were all over the news. I knew what it was. We all did. But we never discussed it like it pertained to us. I mean with us being virgins and everyone believing that it was exclusive to homosexuals and drug addicts. We were just good Catholic kids who were trying to stifle our hormones until we could get the hell outta dodge.
Seriously, my parents never even explained sex to us. I was told, “It’s going to hurt really bad,” by my mother and “Don’t do it!” by my dad. By the first time I actually had sex, I can’t imagine the face I made in my disappointment that it was less than unbearably painful, as my mom had led me to believe. In fact, compared to the horror show I was expecting, it was nothing. Poor guy, my expectation of awful was pretty high.
This is not how we do it in my house. I am very open and upfront with everything with my girls. I answer as they ask. They are 8 and 10-years-old and they know more about their body, where babies come from, how their body works and the consequences of sex like pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases then I did when I went to college.
They’ve been asking questions since they were preschoolers and I’ve always given honest, age-appropriate answers. I’m building trust and, hopefully, laying the basis for an open dialogue about everything as they get older. I’m not their friend. I’m their mom. It’s my job to keep them safe and educated, not tell them what they want to hear or sugarcoat life. Sure, it was very awkward explaining periods, Caitlyn Jenner and how babies grow in mom’s uterus but it’s what I signed up for as a parent. It’s my job to talk about the hard things so that they can make informed decisions because I won’t always be there to stop them from making mistakes.
We need to do something about the things we can change that affect our lives and the lives of our children like educating them about AIDS and HIV.
Here are a few facts about HIV that we need to know and discuss, as awkward as it might be for us, with our children.
- Hispanics represent approximately 17 percent of the U.S. population, but account for an estimated 20 percent of people living with HIV (242,000 persons) and an estimated 21 percent of new infections (9,800) in the United States each year.
- Approximately one in 50 Hispanics will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime.
- Men account for 87 percent of new infections among Hispanics.
- The rate of new HIV infections among Hispanic men is almost three times that among white men, with gay and bisexual men particularly affected.
- In a study of 20 major U.S. cities in 2011, approximately 15 percent of Hispanic MSM were infected. Among those who were HIV-infected, more than one-third (37 percent) were unaware that they were infected.
- The rate of new HIV infections among Hispanic women is more than four times that of white women.
- AIDS continues to claim the lives of too many Latino men and women. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 100,000 Hispanics with AIDS have died.
We can’t let something like stigmas kill us. The stigma associated with HIV and homosexuality may help to spread HIV in Latino communities. In some communities, the cultural value of machismo may create reluctance to acknowledge sensitive, yet risky behaviors, such as male-to-male sexual contact or substance abuse. Fear of disclosing risk behavior or sexual orientation may prevent Latinos from seeking testing, treatment and prevention services, and support from friends and family. As a result, too many Latinos lack critical information about how to prevent infection.
There are a million uncomfortable reasons and excuses to not discuss AIDS and HIV but there is one very important reason to have just this one more conversation about HIV and AIDS and that is your life and the lives of your children. Don’t you want to protect them? Silence is deadly, people.
If you want to learn more about how to start the conversation or just get some useful facts and information, please check out the CDC’s #OneConversation campaign information available in English or Spanish.
- English: https://www.cdc.gov/features/hiv-conversation/
- Spanish: https://www.cdc.gov/spanish/especialescdc/ConversacionVIH/
Join the conversation on your favorite social media platform:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/talkHIV
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ActAgainstAIDS
- Instagram: https://Instagram.com/ActAgainstAIDS
One Conversation at a Time is collaborating with AltaMed Healthcare Services to help promote Sin Vergüenza an exciting, entertaining, and suspenseful telenovela web series. Produced by Los Angeles-based AltaMed Healthcare Services, Sin Vergüenza takes viewers into the lives of a dynamic Mexican-American family coping with issues around HIV and sexual health. Each family member represents a different age group, sexual orientation, and marital status and faces unique challenges. Each person is also at risk of getting HIV.
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Sin Vergüenza addresses difficult issues that many Hispanic/Latino families face including stigma, infidelity, shame, sexuality and aging, condom use, dating and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) relationships and sexuality. Yet, it also portrays the unconditional love and support of family – even in the face of unexpected challenges.
Best of all, it’s a way to encourage Hispanic/Latino families and friends to have meaningful conversations about HIV. Watch the first episode of Sin Vergüenza here.
After you watch it, talk about it with your friends and family and encourage them to watch it.
I’ve watched 2 episodes and I’m hooked. Now, I have to finish watching to see how it all plays out.
How will you start the conversation about HIV with your child?