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20% of HIV-Infected Youth were Unaware of Status

November 09, 2012 05:03pm  
20% of HIV-Infected Youth were Unaware of Status

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 20 percent of youth who were infected with HIV since they were born were unaware they were infected when they first become sexually active.  The study also found that those youth who knew they were infected usually failed to tell their partner before becoming sexual activity, and some of sexual activity did not involve condom use.  

The NIH reports that physicians need to offer more counseling about healthy sexual activity to younger generations.  A large percentage of physicians wait to inform a person of their HIV status until they are a teenager because they are more likely to handle the diagnosis emotionally.  The American Academy of Pediatrics now wants health care providers to ask parents and caregivers when to discuss the diagnosis.  

Rohan Hazra, M.D., states: “Our findings show that these young people act very much like their HIV-negative counterparts across the country.  However, because of their HIV status, it is extremely important for health care providers, school counselors and family members to reinforce the importance of practicing safe sex, taking medication regularly and disclosing HIV status to potential partners.” Hazra is with the Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal AIDS Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National NICHD.  

About 10,000 people are living with HIV in the United States and acquired the disease at or after birth.  Participants of the study were an average age of 14 when they had their first sexual experience, and one-third of the participants said they did not disclose their HIV status to their partner.  62 percent of the participants also admitted that they performed at least one sexual act without a condom.  

Susannah Allison, Ph.D., with the Infant, Child and Adolescent HIV Prevention Program at NIMH, stated: “As more HIV-positive infants survive childhood and become sexually active teens, it becomes increasingly important to emphasize how healthy behaviors can protect these teens, as well as their partners.”

Source: National Institutes of Health


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