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HIV Among Youth

March 18, 2015

Fast Facts
  • Youth aged 13 to 24 accounted for an estimated 26% of all new HIV infections in the United States in 2010.
  • Most new HIV infections among youth occur among gay and bisexual males; there was a 22% increase in estimated new infections in this group from 2008 to 2010.
  • Over 50% of youth with HIV in the United States do not know they are infected.

HIV Among Youth

Youth in the United States account for a substantial number of HIV infections. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men* account for most new infections in the age group 13 to 24; black/African American** or Hispanic/Latino1 gay and bisexual men are especially affected. Continual HIV prevention outreach and education efforts, including programs on abstinence, delaying the initiation of sex, and negotiating safer sex for the spectrum of sexuality among youth -- homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, and transgender -- are urgently needed for a new generation at risk.

The Numbers

New HIV Infections2 (Aged 13-24)

Age distribution of diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States in 2011

Source: CDC. Estimated HIV incidence among adults: 5,600 Black/African American Males; 2,100 Hispanic/Latino Males; 2,100 White Males; 1,400 Black/African American Females; 290 Hispanic/Latina Females; 280 White Females and adolescents in the United States, 2007-2010. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2012;17(4).

HIV and AIDS Diagnoses3 and Deaths Among Youth (Aged 13-24)

Prevention Challenges

Low perception of risk. A majority of 15- to 24-year-olds in the United States responding to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey said they were not concerned about becoming infected with HIV, which means they may not take measures to protect their health.

Declining health education. The prevalence of having been taught in school about HIV infection or AIDS decreased from 92% in 1997 to 85% in 2013.

Low rates of testing. It is estimated that in 2010, about 50% of youth aged 13 to 24 with HIV in the United States were unaware of their infection, compared to 14% overall. In a 2013 survey, only 13% of high school students (22% of those who had ever had sexual intercourse), and in a 2010 survey, only 35% of adults aged 18 to 24 had been tested for HIV.

Low rates of condom use. In a 2013 survey in the United States, of the 34% of high school students reporting sexual intercourse in the previous 3 months, 41% did not use a condom.

High rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Some of the highest STD rates in the United States are among youth aged 20 to 24, especially those of minority races and ethnicities. The presence of an STD greatly increases a person's likelihood of acquiring or transmitting HIV.

Older partners. Young gay and bisexual men are more likely to choose older sex partners than those of their own age, and older partners are more likely to be infected with HIV.

Substance use. Nearly half (47%) of youth aged 12 to 20 reported current alcohol use in 2011, and 10% of youth aged 12 to 17 said they were current users of illicit drugs. Among the 34% of currently sexually active students nationwide, 22% had drunk alcohol or used drugs before last sexual intercourse. Substance use has been linked to HIV infection because both casual and chronic substance users are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as sex without a condom, when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Homelessness. Runaways, homeless youth, and youth who have become dependent on drugs are at high risk for HIV infection if they exchange sex for drugs, money, or shelter.

Inadequate HIV prevention education. Young people are not always reached by effective HIV interventions or prevention education -- especially young gay and bisexual men, because some sex education programs exclude information about sexual orientation.

Feelings of isolation. Gay and bisexual high school students may engage in risky sexual behaviors and substance abuse because they feel isolated and lack support.

What CDC Is Doing

CDC uses a multifaceted approach to meet the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy:

  1. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race
  2. New HIV infections refer to HIV incidence, or the number of people who are newly infected with HIV within a given time frame (for example, 1 year), whether or not they are diagnosed.
  3. HIV and AIDS diagnoses indicate when a person is diagnosed with HIV infection or AIDS, but do not indicate when the person was infected.

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