Despite sex education, the availability of condoms, and the push to prevent new infections, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1,000 young people ages 13 to 24 are infected with HIV each month. And what’s worse? Approximately 60-percent of them don’t even know they have the disease.
“That so many young people become infected with HIV each year is a preventable tragedy,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden wrote.
In a report released this week, the CDC found that a disproportionate number of the young people infected were black (nearly 60%), and the overwhelming majority of the infections (over 70%) occurred among men sleeping with men.
Background: In 2009, 6.7% of the estimated 1.1 million persons living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in the United States were youths (defined in this report as persons aged 13–24 years); more than half of youths with HIV (59.5%) were unaware of their infection.
Methods: CDC used National HIV Surveillance System data to estimate, among youths, prevalence rates of diagnosed HIV infection in 2009 and the number of new infections (incidence) in 2010. To assess the prevalence of risk factors and HIV testing among youths, CDC used the 2009 and 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System for 9th–12th grade students and the 2010 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) for persons 18–24 years.
Results: Prevalence of diagnosed HIV was 69.5 per 100,000 youths at the end of 2009. Youths accounted for 12,200 (25.7%) new HIV infections in 2010. Of these, 7,000 (57.4%) were among blacks/African Americans, 2,390 (19.6%) among Hispanics/Latinos, and 2,380 (19.5%) among whites; 8,800 (72.1%) were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact. The percentage of youths tested for HIV overall was 12.9% among high school students and 34.5% among those aged 18–24 years; it was lower among males than females, and lower among whites and Hispanics/Latinos than blacks/African Americans.
Conclusions: A disproportionate number of new HIV infections occurs among youths, especially blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and men who have sex with men (MSM). The percentage of youths tested for HIV, however, was low, particularly among males.
In order to combat the rise in young people becoming unknowingly infected with the disease, the CDC encourages more informative school-based health education; HIV testing for teen patients during physicals; and community-based empowerment groups for young men that may prevent them from engaging in risky behavior.