FIGURE 1: Number of new HIV infections among youths aged 13-24 years, by sex and race/ethnicity — United States, 2010 (CDC)
Prevalence rates of persons aged 13-24 years living with a diagnosis of HIV infection* — National HIV Surveillance System, United States, year-end 2009
Young people age 13 to 24 made up about a quarter of all new HIV infections in the U.S. during 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this week.
In 2010, of the estimated 47,500 new HIV infections, 12,200 were among youths. An estimated 7,000 (57.4%) newly infected youths were blacks/African Americans, 2,390 (19.6%) were Latinos, and 2,380 (19.5%) were whites.
Among blacks, the study found new diagnosis disproportionately affected males: 5,600 infections were for males compared to 1,400 for females.
Based on the most recent data available from 2009 and 2010, youths represent 6.7% of persons living with HIV in the United States and account for 25.7% of new HIV infections. Of new HIV infections among youths, 45.9% were among black/African American males, the majority of which were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact. Nationwide, the percentage of youths who had ever been tested for HIV was low compared with other age groups: 12.9% among high school students (22.2% among those who ever had sexual intercourse) and 34.5% among persons aged 18-24 years.
The higher HIV prevalence among blacks/African Americans overall (nearly three times higher than among Hispanics/Latinos and nearly eight times higher than among whites) and men who have sex with men (MSM) overall (nearly 40 times higher than other men ) contributes to the disproportionate number of new HIV infections among black/African American youths and young MSM. Because of this disparity, black/African American youths are at higher risk for infection even with similar levels of risk behaviors. Other research has found that among young MSM, other factors such as stigma, discrimination, less condom use, more alcohol and drug use, and having sex with older partners contribute to even higher risk for HIV acquisition. This analysis also found that young MSM were significantly less likely to use condoms during last sexual intercourse, more likely to drink alcohol or use drugs before last sexual intercourse, and more likely to have four or more partners during their lifetime compared with young men who had sexual intercourse only with females. These behaviors are associated with substantial risk for infection. In one study among MSM, the attributable risk for new HIV infection was 29% for using alcohol or drugs before sex and 32% for having four to nine sex partners. Further, in a study of primarily young MSM, 75% of those with acute HIV infection reported sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol compared with 31% of HIV-uninfected MSM. Moreover, the risk for HIV infection doubled for MSM with a sex partner 5 years older and quadrupled with a sex partner 10 years older.
More than half (59.5%) of youths with HIV are unaware of their infection. Although the number of new HIV infections is highest among males, fewer males have been tested for HIV than females. Routine HIV testing as part of regular medical care is recommended by CDC for all persons aged 13-64 years and by the American Academy of Pediatrics for all youths by age 16-18 years and all sexually active youths regardless of age. Better adherence to these guidelines, especially for males, is needed to increase early HIV diagnosis and facilitate treatment that improves health and reduces transmission.
Lastly, before drawing any assumptions you may want to read the truth about the “down low” and HIV.