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Commentary & Opinion

Teens and Young Adults at High Risk of Contracting HIV

December 5, 2008

"With improved drugs, proper care and treatment, people with HIV are living longer and stronger lives. But even with this encouraging news, a dangerous trend is emerging when it comes to an often-ignored segment of the HIV and AIDS population: youth.

"Statistically, youth are quickly catching up to other high-risk groups. In 2006 [CDC] determined that young people accounted for half of all new infections in the United States.

"According to CDC, the United States has the highest rate of teenage infection in the developed world. Every hour, two Americans who are between the ages of 13 and 24 contract HIV.

"This year alone, CDC admitted underestimating HIV cases by 40 percent, meaning that there could be more than 9,000 American teens who have contracted the disease and don't even know it. Without treatment or education, these teens will continue to transmit the virus to their partners.

"Regularly testing pregnant women and at-risk youth for HIV and providing antiretroviral drugs if they are infected dramatically reduces the number of AIDS cases. This approach is already reducing the number of children being infected from birth.

"Preventing HIV is not complicated: Get tested as soon as you're sexually active. Don't use intravenous drugs or share needles. Abstain or practice safer sex. With preventive care, you and your health care provider can fight and manage this disease and protect children.

"Most of all, get educated, and don't be shy about discussing these issues. It's better to talk about sensitive subjects with a doctor, nurse, friend or loved one than to let silence and complacency lead to infection.

"Visit to learn more."

The author is executive vice president and chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare, Cypress, Calif.

Back to other news for December 2008

Adapted from:
Miami Herald
12.01.2008; Sam Ho, MD

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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