School nurses treat pupils of 14 who are HIV positive

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School nurses are having to deal with children as young as 14 who are HIV positive, involved in prostitution and addicted to drugs, a conference has heard.

School nurses are having to deal with children as young as 14 who are HIV positive, involved in prostitution and addicted to drugs, a conference has heard.

The nurses are being faced with a rising tide of self-harm, sexual exploitation and the effects of teenage gang culture. However, the Royal College of Nursing conference warned that chronic shortages of skilled staff in the field mean that abuse cases and other vulnerable children are failing to be identified.

Graphic examples highlighted by nurses at the RCN congress in Harrogate yesterday included a case of a 14-year-old boy who has tested positive for HIV contracted through sexual activity. When he was told, he said: "I can't be HIV positive - only old people get it."

The nurses did not want to identify the area where they worked for reasons of client confidentiality, but they came from towns and cites across the country.

Babara Richardson-Todd, a school nurse, said: "I have some young girls and also young boys who are prostituting themselves through force of circumstances. I also have many children and young people who are on the child-protection register whose mothers have had to turn to prostitution to pay for their drug habit."

Liz Allan, who works in Kent and is chair of the School Nurse Forum, said: "Most school nurses at some time in their career will come across children who are subjected to sexual exploitation. She said young teenage girls were also forced to perform "sexual favours" on boys as part of the gang culture.

Judy McRae, a school nurse from London, also told of the new trend of "daisychaining", where groups of teenagers go to one house and all have sex with each other.

Kathy French, a sexual health adviser to the RCN, said boys as young as 13 and 14 were feeling peer pressure from girls the same age to have sex, as well as the other way round. Poverty, combined with images of sex in films and on television, were driving many of the pressures on boys, her research has shown.

She said: "Years ago, these boys may have had apprenticeships to go into that would have made them feel like men. Now they are unemployed and the only thing that makes them feel like men is having sex."

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