Student Well-Being

Disproportionate Numbers of Young People Have HIV, Don’t Know It

By Nirvi Shah — November 27, 2012 1 min read
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About 1 in 15 people living in the United States who has HIV is 13 to 24 years old—and more than half of these young people don’t know they have the disease, new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show, and the agency says schools must work harder to prevent HIV’s spread.

These estimates, shared today by the CDC, are from 2009. In all, about 1.1 million people in the United States have HIV, the agency reported.

The CDC estimates that about 70 out of 100,000 teenagers and young adults have HIV and they accounted for 12,000 cases—about 26 percent—diagnosed in 2010. Meanwhile, 13- to 24-year-olds represent only about 21 percent of the total population. The majority of the new cases, about 60 percent, were among black teens and young adults. Another 20 percent of the new cases were among Latinos of the same age.

The infection rate among young people is disproportionately high, the CDC said, while the percentage of people in the same age group tested was disproportionately low.

In 2009, people ages 13 to 24 comprised 6.7 percent of persons living with HIV, but more than half, nearly 60 percent, didn’t know they were infected, the CDC said, the highest rate for any age group.

The agency wants more effective school- and community-based interventions that can help ensure young people know their risk for HIV, delays their first sexual activity, increases condom use for those who are sexually active, and decreases other behaviors, such as alcohol and drug use, that contribute to HIV risk.

While early diagnoses and treatment can reduce the progression of HIV and prevent its spread, young people are less likely to be tested, access medical care, keep up with that care, and achieve viral suppression, which is the halting of the function or replication of the virus.

HIV infection among youth is much higher in the South than most other parts of the country, the CDC says. AIDS in the South, including how sex ed is taught, was the subject of a documentary earlier this year called “deepsouth.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.