More than half of young people in the United States who are infected with HIV are not aware of it, according to a new report by government health officials that zeroes in on one of the remaining hot spots of HIV infection in America.
Young people ages 13 to 24 account for 26 percent of all new HIV infections, according to the report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was released on Tuesday.
“Given everything we know about HIV and how to prevent it in 30 years of fighting the disease, it’s just unacceptable that young people are becoming infected at such high rates,” noted CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.
Every month, 1,000 young people in America become infected with HIV, an incurable infection that costs $400,000 to treat over a lifetime. If left untreated, HIV infection leads to AIDS and early death.
In 2010, 72 percent of the estimated 12,000 new HIV infections in young people occurred in young men who have sex with men, and nearly half of new infections were among young, black males.
Young black and bisexual men account for 39 percent of all new infections among youth and more than half of new infections among young men who have sex with men.
The proportion of young people infected with HIV has remained relatively stable during the last few years, but infection rates appear to be increasing in these populations.
And because many of the newly infected gay or bisexual males are just beginning to explore their sexuality, stigma and homophobia are making HIV testing and treatment far more challenging.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend routine screening for HIV starting in the early teens. They say too few young people are getting tested.
According to the report, a large analysis of risk behaviors among high school students revealed that gay and bisexual males are much more likely to have multiple sex partners, to inject illegal drugs and to use alcohol or drugs before sex.
They are much less likely to use condoms. And because so few get tested, HIV-infected people under age 25 are significantly less likely than those who are older to get and stay in care, and to have their virus controlled at a level that helps them stay healthy and reduce their risk of transmitting HIV to partners.
The CDC also found that many young men who have sex with men are less likely than others to have been taught about HIV or AIDS in school.