HIV Increases Among Youth
The number of young people with HIV is on the rise, and disturbingly few of them are being tested for it.
Incidences of HIV infection among
TeAmericans ages 13 to 24 grew from 10,800 in 2007 to 12,200 in 2010 – a 13 percent increase, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young gay and bisexual males ages 13 to 24 were hit even harder than their peers, with infections climbing 22 percent to 8,800 in 2010, followed by black teens and young men, with numbers rising 27 percent to 5,600.
“That so many young people become infected with HIV each year is a preventable tragedy,” says CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden. “All young people can protect their health, avoid contracting and transmitting the virus and learn their HIV status.”
The rising infection rate for teens is of special concern in the Bay Area. California has the highest HIV or AIDS incidence in the U.S. after New York, and San Francisco County has the highest of any California county (35,111 incidences in 2010) after Los Angeles, according to the California Department of Health. Alameda, Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties are seventh, ninth and tenth in the state, respectively.
One factor behind the spread of HIV among young people is that few of them are tested for the virus, and thus they may be unknowingly transmitting it to their partners, the CDC reports. Perhaps due to doctors’ oversight, poor health care access for youth or the stigma of HIV, just 35 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds and 13 percent of high school students have been tested. As a result, infected Americans under the age of 25 are less likely than older ones to get crucial care and stay healthy, the CDC reports.
Among young gay and bisexual males, the problem is compounded by their more risky sexual behavior, a related CDC analysis showed. Compared to their peers, young gay and bisexual men reported having more partners and being more likely to use drugs or alcohol before sex and less likely to use a condom. Many young gay males “underestimate their risk for HIV,” the CDC reports.
Experts urge sexually active youth to call 800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) to find an HIV testing site nearby. For more information, see cdc.gov.hiv/topics/basic.