Increased public awareness and advancements in medicine over the past three decades have led to remarkable strides in preventing the spread of HIV and improving the quality of life of those living with HIV or AIDS in the US. For instance, because of better screening and access to medication, there are far fewer cases of HIV-positive pregnant women transferring the virus to their newborn babies. Fewer than 100 infants were born with HIV last year, compared to more than 900 in 1992. This and other areas of progress are worth celebrating, yet major challenges remain in combating HIV and AIDS among all Americans.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States (NHAS), released in 2010, is the nation’s first-ever comprehensive and coordinated plan for guiding efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The first of four objectives of the NHAS is to reduce the number of individuals infected each year. A focus on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS among adolescents must be a major part of the effort.
Despite stable rates of HIV diagnosis in older populations, the rate of HIV diagnoses from 2006 to 2009 increased in teens 15-19 and youth 20-24 years of age, and was highest in the 20-24 year-old age group. Undiagnosed HIV cases are also thought to be highest among young people. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates more than half of all undiagnosed HIV infections are youth ages 13 – 24.
Of adolescent HIV diagnoses, almost 70% are to black teens, even though they constitute a much smaller proportion of the adolescent population in the US.
Almost 80% of all adolescent infections are to males. Nine out of 10 adolescent male HIV infections result from male-to-male sexual contact. The same proportion of adolescent females is infected from heterosexual contact.
The highest concentrations of HIV diagnoses among adolescents are in the Southeastern United States and, specifically, Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana.