December 3, 2012
Just in time for World AIDS Day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data in the newest issue of Vital Signs that indicated that 60 percent of young people (ages 13-24) living with HIV do not know they are infected. Approximately 12,000 young people were infected with HIV in 2010.
The data from 2010 showed that 72 percent of new HIV infections in young people occurred in young men who have sex with men (MSM) and that 57% of the new infections in this age group are African American.
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 percent of 18-24 year olds have been tested for HIV, while only 13 percent of high school students (and 22 percent 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 and 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.