CDC: HIV Rate Among Youths High, Testing Low

A new report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that youths ages 13 to 24 represented more than a quarter (26%) of new HIV infections each year. Of those, 60% are unaware that they are infected.

The Vital Signs article from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report notes that an estimated 12,2000 new HIV infections occurred in 2010 among young people aged 13-24. Out of this group, young gay and bisexual men and African Americans were affected the most. In 2010, 72% of estimated new HIV infections in young people occurred in young men who have sex with men. By race/ethnicity, 57% of estimated new infections in this age group were in African Americans.

“That so many young people become infected with HIV each year is a preventable tragedy,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “All young people can protect their health, avoid contracting and transmitting the virus, and learn their HIV status.”

Despite recommendations from CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics that call for routine HIV testing of youth in medical settings, the analysis shows that 35%of 18-24 year olds have been tested for HIV, while only 13% of high school students (and 22% of sexually experienced students) have ever been tested.

Partially as a result of lower testing levels, HIV-infected people under the age of 25 are significantly less likely than those who are older to get and stay in HIV care, and to have their virus controlled at a level that helps them stay healthy and reduce their risk of transmitting HIV to partners.

CDC also examined risk behaviors among high school students in 12 states and nine large urban school districts, and found that young MSM reported engaging in substantially higher levels of risk behavior than their heterosexual male peers:

  • Young MSM were more likely to report having had sex with four or more partners or ever injecting illegal drugs.
  • Among students who were currently sexually active, young MSM were more likely to have used alcohol or drugs before their last sexual experience, and were less likely to have used a condom.
  • Young MSM were also less likely to report having been taught about HIV or AIDS in school.

“We can and must achieve a generation that is free from HIV and AIDS,” said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, CDC. “It will take a concerted effort at all levels across our nation to empower all young people, especially young gay and bisexual youth, with the tools and resources they need to protect themselves from HIV infection.” These efforts are underway as part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

Read the full CDC report.

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