One in Four Is Too Many

Content From: Evelyn Kappeler, Director, Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesPublished: March 13, 20133 min read


Evelyn Kappeler Evelyn KappelerOne in four new HIV infections in the United States occurs among young people ages 13-24. One in four! I don’t know about you, but this recently reported CDC finding gave me pause. That same report illuminated some other startling facts:
  • About 1,000 youth per month were infected with HIV in 2010
  • Most new HIV infections in youth (about 70%) occurred in gay and bisexual males, most of whom were African Americans
  • Of the new HIV infections among youth, 2,100 were among young women; two-thirds of these were among young African American women
  • Youth are 7% of the estimated 1 million Americans living with HIV
  • Most youth are not getting tested for HIV
  • About 60% of youth with HIV do not know they are infected and so don’t receive treatment, putting them at risk for sickness and early death. These youth can also unknowingly pass HIV to others.
The CDC Vital Signs on HIV among youth is a vivid and compelling reminder of facts too often overlooked in our conversations about both adolescent health and HIV: Too many young people become infected and too few are tested for HIV.

This has prompted concern here at the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) and across HHS. We are looking for opportunities to strengthen our HIV activities that reach our nation’s youth so we can help prevent new infections and support those living with HIV to learn their status and get connected to care. We also know that similar efforts are underway in many national, state, and local agencies and community-based organizations working to improve the health and well being of adolescents and young people. There are actions everyone can take—young people, parents and families, and health care and social service providers—get informed about HIV, know the risks of HIV infection and how to prevent it, share this information with others, help link young people to HIV testing and, when necessary, treatment, and encourage and support people living with HIV to stay in care. Read more about what you can do.

Among the recommendations contained in the CDC Vital Signs report is that “all youth should know how HIV is transmitted and prevented, understand what puts them at risk for HIV, and be tested if they are at risk.” This echoes the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The Resource Center, supported by the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund, provides information on evidence-based programs for preventing HIV in young people, particularly adolescents from minority and other at-risk populations. The goal of the Center is to build national capacity in youth HIV prevention by providing a central, online location for resources, professional literature, evidence-based programs and practices, and technical assistance. If your agency or organization is among the many across the country assessing what you can do new or differently to address the impact of HIV among youth, I hope you will visit the Resource Center online! (Read more about the Resource Center in our prior blog post.)