Young Americans with HIV often don’t know they have contracted the virus, according to new government data.
The Centers for Disease Control found that six in 10 young people—aged 13 to 24—living with HIV are unaware they are infected. Young people between the ages of 13 and 24 represent more than a quarter of new HIV infections each year.
“That so many young people become infected with HIV each year is a preventable tragedy,” says CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden. “All young people can protect their health, avoid contracting and transmitting the virus, and learn their HIV status.”
Overall, an estimated 12,200 new HIV infections occurred in 2010 among young people, with young gay and bisexual men and African Americans hit harder by HIV than their peers.
By race/ethnicity, 57 percent of estimated new infections in this age group were in African Americans.
The analysis looks at the latest data on HIV infections, testing, and risk behaviors among young people and was published in advance of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.
Despite recommendations from CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics that call for routine HIV testing of youth in medical settings, the analysis shows that 35 percent of 18-24 year olds have been tested for HIV, while only 13 percent of high school students (and 22 percent of sexually experienced students) have ever been tested.
Partially as a result of lower testing levels, HIV-infected people under the age of 25 are significantly less likely than those who are older to get and stay in HIV care, and to have their virus controlled at a level that helps them stay healthy and reduce their risk of transmitting HIV to partners.