A green pock-faced monster with red eyes and fangs is the depiction of HIV in a new children's book that seeks to explain the science of AIDS to South African children. In the book, Staying Alive, Fighting HIV/AIDS, colorful pictures and simple text describe how HIV invades the immune system and multiplies throughout the body. By explaining the science of the virus and giving frank answers on how it is transmitted, the book's British authors and American publisher hope to teach South African children how to stay safe.
In researching the project, author Fran Balkwill and illustrator Mic Rolph asked South African children of varying backgrounds what they wanted to know about AIDS. "They essentially wrote the book for us," said Balkwill, a cancer researcher who has coauthored several children's science books with Rolph. Balkwill and Rolph recorded their interviews with the children, who all wanted the same questions answered: How is one infected? Is there a cure? What is a vaccine?
The book, published by Cold Harbor Laboratory Press, is being distributed free to 20,000 South African children. It is aimed at children ages 11 to 17, and its backers hope to raise more money so it can be distributed to all South African children. Eventually, they hope to make versions available in other countries where the disease has reached epidemic proportions.
The book emphasizes that couples should practice safe sex and tells children, "You can protect yourself and the people around you, if you start to understand HIV and all its tricky ways." Pictures of condoms in a rainbow of colors worn by a cartoon penis are shown, and the ABC's of sex are given. A is for abstinence, B is for being faithful and for being tested and C is for condoms and for caring about each other. No one should be forced to have sex, and having sex with a young girl cannot cure AIDS, the book says.
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