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Only 1 in 5 Teens in the US Gets Tested for HIV

January 11, 2012

It's no secret that testing young people for HIV can be difficult. Between doctors not wanting to test their young patients, young people not wanting their parents to know that they are sexually active, and even young folks not wanting to acknowledge that they are at risk, teens are falling through the HIV testing gaps. And the Centers for Disease Control 2009 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey confirms as much.

By looking at data compiled from more than 7,500 sexually active teens across the U.S., researchers found that in 2009, about one in five of them had ever been tested for HIV. Researchers also found:

  • Roughly 46.1 percent of female teens interviewed had not used condoms during their last sexual encounter, compared to 31.4 percent of male teens.
  • Of the female teens interviewed, 12.2 percent had not received any education about HIV/AIDS in school, compared with 13.7 percent of male teens.
  • Among sexually-active teens interviewed, 11.2 percent of the females had four or more sexual partners in their lifetime, compared to 16.2 percent of the males.
  • Testing was more common among "higher risk" populations, but even in those groups, less than 50 percent had ever been tested.

Medscape points out that the survey does not include data on sexual orientation, which is an important piece of information to have.

So what can be done?

In an editorial about this report, Lawrence D'Angelo, M.D., of the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., calls the report's findings "disturbing" and wants HIV testing to be done universally at the age of 13 and to be repeated every year in all young people who are at risk until they are 18. From there, testing should be done every three years, he says.

D'Angelo's recommendations fall somewhat in line with the CDC's testing recommendations, but differ from the recent recommendations handed down by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) last November, calling for doctors to begin screening at-risk teens between the ages of 16 and 18, but only those who live in an area that has a 1 percent prevalence rate.

What do you think? Should sexually active teens be tested for HIV every year starting at 13?

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.

Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by TheBody.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More Viewpoints on U.S. HIV Testing Policy

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Josh (NY) Fri., Jan. 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm UTC
Let's just get that vaccine and cure going :)

That could be quicker than getting mandatory laws in enforce testing. How about a serious ad campaign during Super Bowl? What is needed is interest in talking about this more...
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Comment by: Brad O (Washington, DC) Fri., Jan. 13, 2012 at 10:45 am UTC
In think testing all teens at age 13 is a good idea, and could be more easily sold, I think, if the pitch was "for the next 4 years we will do this to try and reverse trends". In addition, now that Orasure has submitted the third and final phase of its trials to the FDA for approval of self-testing, we should start introducing self-testing education in the schools.
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Comment by: Paul Fri., Jan. 13, 2012 at 5:42 am UTC
"you have to accept consequences for bad choices"-(shakes head in disbelief)-
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Comment by: Tony (Beautiful Bakersfield) Thu., Jan. 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm UTC
Yes. Testing for teens who have put themselves at risk is very very important. First of all you become aware of the whole idea of a window period, that you have to accept consequences for bad choices - that's just a fact of life. Secondly, if you may be infected the best place you could possibly be to find that out is at the clinic. Most importantly for teens, or anyone I think, if you've put yourseld at risk, but then thest negative, you get to reflect on your future.Nobody's perfect, and nobody can change their past, but you can start over againg with a "clean" HIV/STD test result rather than think that you're infected with something, or you're goining to get infected with something, and their's nothing you can do about it.
The most valuable natural resource of any society is it's youth why wouldn't we want do do everything we possibly can to protect and value all of them.:)
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