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28-11-2012 | Article

CDC study reveals disproportionate HIV infections in youth


CDC Vital Signs article

medwireNews: As World AIDS Day approaches, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis of National HIV Surveillance data indicates alarming trends among youth.

People aged 13 to 24 years accounted for 25.7% of new HIV infections in 2010, of whom 83.0% were male. Youths represent 6.7% of the 1.1 million persons who have acquired HIV in the USA and that proportion is increasing, as 1000 young people become infected per month. Meanwhile, only 13.0% of youth are routinely tested, while more than half (59.5%) of those who are HIV positive are unaware of it.

The 2010 data show that Blacks/African Americans were the most commonly infected ethnicity, at 57.4%, compared with 19.6% and 19.5% for Hispanics/Latinos and Whites, respectively. In all, 72.1% of all these infections were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact.

"The study tells us two very important things," explained the CDC's Thomas Frieden, at a press briefing. "First, too few young people are getting tested for HIV. Second, young gay and bisexual men report much higher levels of risky behavior than their heterosexual peers."

According to Frieden, gay and bisexual male high school students are much more likely to have multiple sexual partners, to inject illegal drugs, to use alcohol or drugs before sex, and are much less likely to use condoms regardless of race or ethnicity. "As we work to drive down new HIV infections in all populations," he said, "we have to give particular focused attention to the next generation, especially African Americans and gay and bisexual young men."

The CDC intends to improve infection control by expanding access to HIV testing for young people (even in schools), and implement behavior change programs in healthcare and community settings that target those most at risk. Print, broadcast, and social media campaigns are also being used to inform young people about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Frieden noted Affordable Care Act provisions that require insurers to cover HIV screenings without a co-pay, and recommend that healthcare providers to test people ages 13 years and above for HIV while providing prevention services tailored for youth.

"But clearly the data suggests that we need to do more and we need to do more faster," concluded Kevin Fenton, from the CDC.

By Peter Sergo, medwireNews Reporter