Is The Next Generation Ignorant Of HIV?


A recent survey found that around a third of US teens between 12 and 17 “don’t realize HIV is a sexually transmitted disease.” Russell Saunders finds it “difficult to know how much credence to give those findings” given that a “2002 study of youth at an urban clinic found that, despite spotty knowledge about STIs as a whole, HIV was identified as such by 91 percent.” Nevertheless, Saunders worries that at risk groups aren’t getting the information they need:

What is truly discouraging are the numbers regarding new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM), the group comprising the largest number of new diagnoses by far. Among MSM aged 13-24 years rates of new infections have actually risen over the past decade, while the overall rate of new diagnoses has dropped by 30 percent. As a gay man standing on the cusp of middle age, I fear that the lessons learned by my generation and the ones that came before are being lost. While medications like Truvada can be used to lower the risk of infection for those engaged in high-risk behaviors, about which I have put my reservations aside, that doesn’t mean attention to lowering those risks isn’t important.

Though my reading of the report is that most teens have a good idea about the health risks they actually face, it remains important to inform adolescents about their risk of infection with HIV. The survey report contains no information about the respondents’ demographics beyond their ages, so it’s impossible to know how many fall into higher-risk groups. For those who do, giving them the information they need to lower that risk remains just as important as ever.

(Chart from Vox)