In a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Nov. 27, shocking statistics reveal that young people between the ages of 13 and 24 represent more than a quarter of new HIV infections each year (26 percent). As if that revelation weren’t shocking enough, an incredible 60 percent of those young people don’t even know that they are infected with HIV.
The most-affected young people are young gay and bisexual men and African-Americans, the report reveals. According to CDC experts, a number of factors contribute to the high levels of HIV in young people and vary by population. Research has found that certain factors can increase risk of infection, such as higher levels of unrecognized and untreated infection, as well as social and economic factors, such as poverty, lack of access to health care, stigma, and discrimination.
The CDC examined risk behaviors among high school students in 12 states and nine large urban school districts, and found that young men who have sex with men (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 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.
Although stunning, HIV is far from a “gay” or “African-American” disease as the above represents only 26 percent of newly infected persons. However it is the contributory factors that are cause for alarm from this preventable disease. The CDC works with partners across the country to help prevent HIV and other STDs among young people.
These efforts include encouraging HIV education and testing, funding the delivery of targeted testing and prevention services for youth at greatest risk, and working to address the social and environmental factors that can place some youth at increased risk. CDC also provides data and support to help communities develop effective school-and community-based HIV and STD prevention efforts.
The report views the latest data on HIV infections, testing, and risk behaviors among young people and was published in advance of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. For information about HIV prevention or how you can help your community, please visit the CDC website or the Act Against Aids website.
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