Gay, bi­sex­ual young peo­ple at high­est risk for HIV in­fec­tion

Fac­tors in­clude stigma, lack of preven­tion ed­u­ca­tion

GA Voice - - News -

Ev­ery month, 1,000 young peo­ple in the U.S. be­come in­fected with HIV. Drug and al­co­hol use and un­pro­tected sex are ma­jor rea­sons youth are be­com­ing in­fected at alarming rates, ac­cord­ing to a new CDC Vi­tal Signs report re­leased this month.

In a Nov. 27 con­fer­ence call with re­porters, CDC lead­ers said more must be done to en­sure youth ages 13-24 are tested for HIV as well as ed­u­cated about the pre­ventable disease.

“This is our fu­ture gen­er­a­tion and the bot­tom line is ev­ery month 1,000 youth are be­com­ing in­fected with HIV,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, di­rec­tor of the CDC. “The cost of care is ap­prox­i­mately $400,000 over a per­son’s life­time.

“That means ev­ery month we are ac­cru­ing $400 mil­lion in health care costs, and ev­ery year that to­tals $5 bil­lion. It is just un­ac­cept­able that young peo­ple are con­tract­ing a disease that is pre­ventable,” he added.

In 2009, youth ages 13-24 ac­counted for al­most 7 per­cent of the 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple in the coun­try liv­ing with HIV. Some 59 per­cent of the youth in­fected do not know they are pos­i­tive, ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

“Over­all, an es­ti­mated 12,200 new HIV in­fec­tions oc­curred in 2010 among young peo­ple aged 13-24, with young gay and bi­sex­ual men and African-Amer­i­cans hit harder by HIV than their peers.

“In 2010, 72 per­cent of es­ti­mated new HIV in­fec­tions in young peo­ple oc­curred in young men who have sex with men. By race/eth­nic­ity, 57 per­cent of es­ti­mated new in­fec­tions in this age group were in African-Amer­i­cans,” ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

The CDC re­ports that of the 1,000 in­fec­tions a month of young peo­ple, four out of five are males. Young gay and bi­sex­ual men are the hard­est hit, ac­count­ing for 87 per­cent of male in­fec­tions in youth. African Amer­i­can gay and bi­sex­ual men are hit even harder.

Young gay and bi­sex­ual men are more likely to have mul­ti­ple sex part­ners, use drugs and al­co­hol be­fore a sex­ual en­counter, as well as not use con­doms, which puts them at the high­est risk, the report shows.

In a 12-state study of high school stu­dents in 2010, the CDC found that gay and bi­sex­ual males re­ported hav­ing four or more sex­ual part­ners and 20 per­cent used in­jec­tion drugs, Dr. Kevin Fen­ton, the out­go­ing di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cen­ter for HIV/ AIDS, Vi­ral Hep­ati­tis, STD & Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis Preven­tion, said in the con­fer­ence call.

Those who iden­tify as gay and bi­sex­ual also were more likely to report they had not re­ceived ed­u­ca­tion in school about HIV.

Stigma, ho­mo­pho­bia and dis­crim­i­na­tion play roles in high in­fec­tion rates among youth, Fen­ton added, and many youth also do not have ac­cess to health care.

“If we are go­ing to see a gen­er­a­tion free from AIDS, we are go­ing to have to in­ten­sify HIV preven­tion for all young peo­ple es­pe­cially for gay and bi­sex­ual young males, both in health care set­tings and in the com­mu­nity, like schools and other com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions,” Frieden said.

— Dyana Bagby

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