Thousands infected are between the ages of 13 and 24, and statistics show that 60% of newly-diagnosed youth are African-American.
There are some risk factors unique to adolescents and young adults that increase the chance of transmitting and acquiring HIV:
- Sexually active youth with no prior HIV/AIDS education typically engage in riskier behaviors.
- Female African-American youth are at greater risk in part because, for reasons that are not well-understood, this group appears to have a greater chance of becoming infected after exposure.
- Young men who don’t disclose their homosexual orientation are less likely to get tested for HIV; consequently, they’re less likely to know if they are HIV+.
- Young men who don’t disclose their sexual orientation are more likely to have both male and female sexual partners, resulting in increased risk of transmitting the virus to both men and women.
- Having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) increases the risk that HIV can be both transmitted and acquired. In many areas of the country, teens and young adults have higher rates of STDs than the rest of the population.
- Drug, tobacco, and alcohol use also contribute to higher rates of HIV transmission among youth. Casual and chronic substance use contributes to high-risk behaviors such as unprotected sex when under the influence of the substance.
It’s important to know your HIV status. If you are HIV+, you need to take steps to avoid infecting others. HIV is not an automatic death sentence. While HIV is not curable, new medications can reduce the amount of virus in your body and help you stay well.
HIV status can be determined by HIV testing. There are three different ways the testing can be done. Blood, urine, and an oral/mouth test can all be used to test for HIV. Some tests take 3-14 days to get results. A rapid HIV test can give results in 20 minutes.
Free, confidential, or anonymous tests are available. You can visit http://www.hivtest.org to find a testing location or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (available 24 hours a day).
To help stop the spread of HIV and reduce your chances of getting it, avoid having sex or use a new latex condom every time you do have sex. Also, talk about sex and HIV with your partners and friends. Talk to your friends about HIV testing and talk to your partners about their HIV status and past tests. And, talk to your doctor.
If you are sexually active, get tested for HIV.