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What’s Your HIV Status? Half of Infected Youth Don’t Know

GRAPHIC: Infograph on HIV infections among youth.
GRAPHIC: Infograph on HIV infections among youth.
November 29, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Too many young people continue to become infected with HIV, and too few are tested, according to a new government report. The data was released by the Centers for Disease Control, ahead of World AIDS Day on Saturday, Dec. 1. The report says 60 percent of youth living with the virus do not know they are infected.

Nichole Sewell, education specialist with the Family Planning Association of Northeast Ohio, says some people are in denial about their risky behavior and do not think it can happen to them. Initially, an HIV infection often shows no signs, she adds.

"People just aren't showing any symptoms. You can be healthy and living a normal healthy life and still have HIV infection and just not know it."

The report found that individuals between the ages of 13 and 24 represent more than a quarter of new HIV infections each year. However, only 13 percent of high school students and 35 percent of people ages 18 to 24 have ever been tested. Overall, new HIV infections have held steady nationally at around 50,000 annually, with teens and young adults accounting for about 12,000 cases.

HIV testing is crucial to getting medical care and treatment that can improve health, prevent the spread of the virus and save lives, Sewell says. She recommends that everyone know the facts before becoming intimate.

"If someone's considering being sexually active, I highly recommend they be tested - maybe go in together as a couple - so they know their status before they become sexually active. Testing greatly decreases the risk of not only HIV, but any other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well."

According to the report, sexually active youth can reduce their risk of becoming infected by choosing not to have sex, limiting their number of sex partners and using a condom every time.

The report is available at www.cdc.gov.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH