World AIDS Day 2012: American Youth Account for 25.7% of New HIV/AIDS Infections

December 1st is World AIDS day, a day when we pay tribute the unfortunate millions of people living with the HIV/AIDS virus in the United States and the World over, and pay our respects to those that have died from this dreadful disease.

There are an estimated 34 million people Worldwide living with the HIV/AIDS virus, and two thirds of them live in developing countries around the world. Fully 75% of the 2.5 million new cases of the HIV/AIDS virus  also occur in these same developing countries. And the sad part is, 1 in 5 of these people don’t even know they have it.

The statistics in the United States among our youth are appalling.

American youths, ages 15 – 24 years old represent 6.7% of persons living with HIV in the United States yet account for 25.7% of new HIV infections. This based on data from 2009 and 2010. Among those newly infected youth, 45.9% were Black/African American males, the majority of which were infected by male-to-male sexual contact.

Nationwide, the percentage of youths who had been tested for the HIV/AIDS virus was low when compared to other age groups, just 12.9% of High School students and 34.5% among persons aged 18–24 years.
The higher prevalence of the HIV/AIDS virus among Blacks/African Americans overall, and men having sex with men (MSM) was a contributing factor to the disproportionate number of new HIV infections among Black/African American youths and young MSM. Because of this discrepancy, Black/African American youths are at higher risk for infection even with similar levels of risk behaviors as MSM.Additional research has found that among young MSM, other factors such as disgrace, intolerance, lack of condom use, accelerated alcohol and drug abuse, and having sex with older partners, contributed to an even higher risk for HIV infection.

In one study among MSM, the determinable risk factor for new HIV infection was 29% for those using alcohol or drugs before sexual activity and 32% for those having four to nine sex partners annually. Young MSM, 75% of those with acute HIV infection reported sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in comparison with 31% of HIV-uninfected MSM. What’s more, the risk for HIV infection doubled for MSM with a sexual partner 5 years their senior and quadrupled with a sex partner 10 years their senior.

The worst part is, almost 60% (59.5%) of youths with HIV are unaware of their infection.

Early diagnosis and treatment options can reduce the progression of the HIV/AIDS virus and prevent transmission, but youths are less likely to get tested, have access to healthcare, fully complete their care, and achieve viral restriction. Confidential and accommodating health services can facilitate access to and help to keep patients in care, and comprehensive health services, including HIV/AIDS screening, treatment, and prevention services, and additional services, such as mental health, drug and alcohol abuse education and treatment, are necessary for youths at highest risk of acquiring or transmitting the HIV/AIDS virus.

The goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States is to reduce the number of people infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. To achieve these goals, public health agencies, in partnership with families, educators, and health-care professionals, must raise the level of education afforded to these at risk youth, about the HIV/AIDS virus before they begin engaging in at risk behaviors, especially among young gay and bisexual males, particularly Blacks/African Americans, who face a disproportionately higher risks, then other races, to delay the onset of sexual activity, increase condom use among those who are sexually active, and decrease intravenous drug use, using an approach that provides access to condoms, HIV testing and treatment, and behavioral interventions for those at highest risk are needed.

Article by Jim Donahue

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