"It's nasty to talk about it. But if we mess up, we could get HIV. When are they going to start talking to us? We shouldn't have to do this alone."
17 year old Latina girl, California
- AIDS is not over. Scientists believe that there have been 40,000 new HIV infections in the United States every year for the last several years, and that half of those being infected are young people between the ages of 13 and 24.
- Most young people who are already HIV-infected don't know it.
- The vast majority of HIV-infected youth do not receive adequate medical care.
- For many young people infected with HIV, new medical treatments could lead to long, productive lives. To make this a reality, they need youth-friendly access to HIV counseling and testing, medical care (including mental health care), and other support services.
- The best treatments fall far short of a cure and we have no vaccine. Behavior change is still the key to preventing HIV and protecting America's youth.
- Prevention science has identified programs that can reduce risk behavior, but these programs are not offered in most schools and communities. Some of the proven programs were designed for small group or classroom use. With an emphasis on communication, negotiation and refusal skills, they state clearly that abstinence is important, and also provide information about condoms and other contraceptives. Other effective programs offer individualized counseling to high-risk youth, or use outreach workers to deliver prevention messages. A final group of programs mentor young people in activities that make the future seem brighter and staying safe seem worthwhile.
- We still need answers to major questions about preventing and treating HIV and AIDS in young people. For example, we need to know how medical treatments for HIV affect a person who is still developing physically.
- All young people need the tools to protect themselves from AIDS. The youth at highest risk of HIV infection need additional help. They are confronted with poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia. Many are out of school, lack access to health care, and are exploited by adults. Youth at highest risk urgently need school and community-based prevention programs that address all the daunting challenges they face.
- Important parts of a comprehensive prevention/care system are now in place. There is more to learn, but we know enough now to tie key parts of the system together and extend it to cover all of our youth. This will take more resources, and more strategic use of existing resources. Working together, we can provide proper care to youth with HIV and AIDS, and we can turn the tide against new HIV infections in young people.