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National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: Highlighting the Impact of Disease on the Age Group

Jaime Rosenberg
As April 10 marks National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day, CDC and other organizations are highlighting the impact of HIV/AIDS on individuals aged 13 to 24, as they accounted for nearly one-fourth of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2015. 
As April 10 marks National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day, CDC and other organizations are highlighting the impact of HIV/AIDS on the patient population, as well as the continuing need for HIV education, resources, and research.

In 2015, individuals aged 13 to 24 accounted for nearly one-fourth (22%) of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States, according to the CDC. Among this patient population, the majority of new diagnoses were attributable to gay and bisexual males (81%). Previous research has similarly concluded that men who have sex with men remain the most affected population, and among the total population of people with HIV, those aged 13 to 24 account for the second highest HIV incidence, falling only behind those aged 25 to 34.

According to the CDC, young black/African American and Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual males are especially affected. Of the 8807 youth diagnosed with HIV in 2015, 55% were black/African American males, 24% were Hispanic/Latino males, and 16% were white males. Females accounted for just 12% of new HIV diagnoses. However, there is progress being made. From 2008 to 2014, the estimated annual HIV infections fell 18% among gay and bisexual males.  

At the end of 2013, approximately 60,900 youth were living with HIV in the United States, and 51% were living with undiagnosed HIV, the highest rate of undiagnosed HIV in any age group. Of those who were diagnosed in 2014, 68% accessed care within a month, also the lowest rate of any age group. The patient population is also least likely of all age groups to have a suppressed viral load.

The lower rates of accessing care and achieving a suppressed viral load may be attributed to prevention challenges the patient population faces, such as inadequate sex education, according to the CDC. From 2000 to 2014, the percentage of US schools that required students to receive HIV prevention education decreased from 64% to 41%. In most states, less than half of schools teach all 16 of CDC’s recommended sexual health education topics.

According to 2015 data, only 10% of high school students have been tested for HIV, and among male students who have had sex with other males, only 21% have ever been tested. A January National Health Statistics Report found that for those aged 15 to 44, 38.8% of women and 53.8% of men had never been tested, and it was more common among those aged 15 to 24 than those aged 35 to 44. The most common reason for not being tested was that they were “unlikely to have been exposed to HIV.”

To increase awareness and link youth affected by HIV to information and resources, the National Institutes of Health compiled a list of National Youth HIV & Aids Awareness Day webpages, HIV/AIDS-related research and available clinical trials, and additional sources, such as fact sheets.

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