In order to prevent the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from spreading, people must first take preventive measures and get tested for the sexually transmitted infection (STI). In a new federal report, health officials discovered that not enough sexually active teenagers are getting tested.
According to the background information provided by the researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the young generation makes up ta disproportionate share of new HIV infections. In 2010, young people aged 13 to 24 accounted for 26 percent of new HIV infections in the U.S.. Out of this group, roughly 60 percent of them are unaware that they are carrying the incurable virus, which can lead to increased rates of HIV infections over the next few years.
“We do believe that some amount of complacency is having some impact,” said Laura Kann, the lead researcher of the report and a scientist at CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health according toUSA Today. “As the [AIDS] epidemic becomes less of a crisis, young people become less aware of [the dangers of] HIV.”
For this report, the researchers examined more than 13,000 high school students between 1991 and 2013 taken from the National Youth Risk Behavior survey. The survey asked the children questions about their sexual behaviors, such as using condoms and getting tested for STIs. The sexually active children also reported how many sexual partners they have had. They discovered that since 2005, the percentage of young people who got tested for HIV remained the same at 22 percent. This means that only one in every five teens or young adutls who have had sex get tested.
“I think kids live on a very short time horizon,” said Nancy Mahon, Global Executive Director of the MAC AIDS Fund and chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. “Pregnancy seems like a much more urgent issue than HIV. We need to do better job of educating kids about HIV, we have tools to end the epidemic, and it’s a 100% preventable disease.”
Kann added according to Medical Xpress, “Young people today were not around in the early days of the epidemic and did not see the havoc that it wreaked. And there is just not the same emphasis in our society there was previously, so some amount of complacency is there.”
Other findings that the report discovered were that girls were more likely than boys to be tested. 28 percent of black teens, 20 percent of white teens and 21 percent of Hispanic teens got tested. Overall, all three races saw drops in the percentage of teens who engaged in sexual intercourse from 1991 to 2013. The number of teens who used condoms increased from 46 percent in 1991 to 63 percent in 2003. It later dropped to 59 percent in 2013.
The findings from the CDC report will be presented at the 2014 International AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia.