New York Times Profiles Documentary Aimed To Help Parents Discuss Sex, HIV/AIDS With Their KidsNew York Times reporter Donald McNeil on Tuesday profiled the new documentary "Please Talk to Kids About AIDS," which aims to help parents talk about sex and HIV/AIDS with their children. The film features two sisters -- Vineeta and Sevilla Hennessey, ages six and four -- as they accompany their parents, who are the filmmakers, to the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto in 2006. The documentary has been shown to schools of public health and at film festivals.
According to McNeil, a stop at the Condom Project's booth at the conference prompted the filmmakers, Brian Hennessey and Radia Daoussi, to center the film on their daughters. The sisters interview top HIV/AIDS experts and advocates -- including Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, International AIDS Society Director Craig McClure and conference co-chair Mark Wainberg. The girls also talk to condom distributors, a sex toy salesperson, a cross-dresser and an Indian transgender hijra.
According to McNeil, the sisters ask questions such as "How does AIDS get into your body?" and "How come they want to have sex with each other?" Fauci in response to one question said, "You know ... when a man and a woman have sexual relationships they get infected. And also from injecting from a needle that is contaminated with the virus." McNeil said the girls get "straightforward answers about bodies conjoining" from McClure, as well as about commercial sex work from a sex worker-rights advocate.
According to McNeil, the film is "not really for children" in its present form. "For a parent, however, watching someone else's very young child ... grapple with the topic is a powerful exhortation to begin thinking about how to talk to one's own," McNeil writes. Daoussi said that there is no right age to talk to kids about sex and HIV/AIDS. "It's when they're ready," Daoussi said, adding, "It's our own discomfort that's the problem, not theirs. Kids don't have taboos" (McNeil, New York Times, 2/26).
The film is available online. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.