Wednesday, November 28, 2012

HIV hitting America's youth

In advance of World AIDS Day this Saturday (December 1), we would be remiss if we didn't acknowledge one of the worst epidemics affecting young people. 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 released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Youth ages 13 to 24 make up for 26 percent of all new Human Immunodeficiency Virus infections, the report said. Every month, 1,000 young people in America become infected with HIV, an incurable infection that costs $400,000 to treat over a lifetime, according to CDC officials. If left untreated, HIV infection leads to AIDS and early death.

Just two years ago, 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. In light of this, stigma and homophobia are making HIV testing and treatment far more challenging (And young people are STILL having unprotected sex with multiple partners). 

There is something you can do to not become a statistic – routine testing starting in early teens just to become more aware of the risks and consequences of unsafe sex. To address the issue of rising new infections among youth, the CDC is funding a program that targets both at-risk youths and the homophobia and stigma in the community that drives them underground. In Georgia, for example, a state where new infections among those 13 to 24 years of age exceed the national average, won a grant as part of a pilot project to find better ways of targeting at-risk youth.

If you do nothing else on Saturday, PLEASE get tested for HIV. Nothing is better than knowing your status. Be safe!

1 comment: