Keeping Count: HIV/AIDS and Young People
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of all new HIV infections in this country occur in young people under the age of 25. While the total number of American youth who have been infected with HIV is unknown, it is estimated that 20,000 young people are infected with HIV every year. That means two young Americans between the ages of 13 and 24 are contracting HIV every hour.
Among young people, HIV is most commonly spread through sexual transmission. By 12th grade, 65% of American youth are sexually active. And of the 12 million Americans with STDs, about two-thirds are people under the age of 25, suggesting that many adolescents and young adults in this country are not practicing safer sex.
The sexual behavior of young people is influenced by alcohol and drug use, which contribute to HIV risk by impacting sexual libido, decision-making, and behavior. And young people who inject drugs are at high risk of HIV infection through contaminated needles. In addition, HIV is often spread from injection drug users to non-injection drug users through sexual transmission.
Certain groups of young people are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, including young women, men who have sex with men, and minority youth.
Unfortunately, HIV infection often goes unrecognized and untreated as most young people who are HIV-infected do not get tested. There are an estimated 250,000 Americans who are unaware that they are HIV-infected, many of whom are young people. Confronted by poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and a lack of targeted prevention education programs, young people are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection.
Information cited here is based on the Office of National AIDS Policy report "Youth and HIV/AIDS 2000: A New American Agenda" and CDC reports.
This article was provided by amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. Visit amfAR's website to find out more about their activities and publications.