Despite health promotion on college campuses and in advertisements, rates of HIV diagnoses among youth and young adults are a concern throughout the nation.
Young people, often defined as ages 13 through 24 years, accounted for 39% of new HIV infections in the United States in 2009, according to surveillance data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January.
Considering the population of 15 to 29-year-olds comprised 21% of the U.S. population in 2010, it is a disheartening reality.
Since the epidemic began more than 30 years ago, advances in methods of surveillance have made figures more realistic. In challenging economic times, health officials often target the populations most at-risk for preventive education.
This population of youth and young adults is not always considered a priority youth group, which makes it possible that the rates of HIV infection and AIDS diagnoses are undercounted.
There are high rates of first-time HIV diagnoses in people 24 years and older. The rate of HIV diagnoses in young adults increased 31% from 28.2% in 2006 to 36.9% in 2009, according to the CDC.
It is possible that some of these individuals in their mid-20s contracted the virus as a teenager or in their early 20s but did not know it because they were not being regularly tested.
The estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV nationwide may have a chance at increased access to lifesaving care and treatment as part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. A ruling by the Supreme Court may come in June, reported USA TODAY.
It is a controversial topic for some, but the epidemic undoubtedly affects everyone.
And for many college students, there seems to be no reason to not “know your status” if you are engaging in behaviors known to transmit the virus, such as unprotected sex with an infected person, sharing needles or through contact with blood of an infected person.
Most colleges have health promotion departments on campus or referrals to facilities that offer medical and social services, including testing for HIV and AIDS and sexually transmitted infections and birth control.
There seems to be a certain level of fear and social stigma connected with the epidemic, but perhaps the first step to tackling misperceptions about the HIV infection and AIDS begins with talking about the issue aloud, including seeking accurately medical advice.
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