Youth and Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing
A Fact Sheet for National HIV Testing Day Organizers
Factors to Consider When Promoting and Providing HIV Prevention and Treatment
Low Perception of RiskMany youth feel they are at no or low risk of contracting HIV. However, the facts show that they are at risk, and parents and adults must also accept these facts. As mentioned above, at least one half of all new HIV infections are estimated to be among youth ages 25 and under. And most of them are infected through unprotected sex.4 This age group is characterized by experimentation, self-esteem conflicts and identity formation, which can result in risk-taking sexual and drug use behaviors. Support and appropriate prevention education can help youth maintain a low level of risk.
Inadequate Prevention EducationYouth receive conflicting messages about sex through the media, friends and sometimes parents. A variety of legal and social factors determine the level of sexual education teenagers get in schools, so the level of knowledge and ability to prevent HIV and other STDs varies from community to community. According to the CDC, "research has clearly shown that the most effective programs are comprehensive ones that include a focus on delaying sexual behavior and provide information on how sexually active young people can protect themselves."3 In addition, prevention must be provided to adolescents who are drop-outs, homeless or runaways, and those in the juvenile justice system. Young people may be more receptive to information they receive from peers because the social and cultural issues they face differ from adult experiences.5
Confidentiality ConcernsMinors are legally allowed to test for STDs without adult consent; however, some states require minors to have the consent of a guardian to receive HIV testing. Also, some states require that clinics report treatments for STDs and HIV. It's not required by law to report an HIV-positive status to the student's school, that's a personal decision. If a student or family chooses to disclose to school authorities, the student's right to privacy must be assured.5
Suggestions for Effective Services and Campaign Messages
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.