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HIV Among Youth

Teen Couples in a corridorYouth in the United States account for a substantial number of HIV infections. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men* account for most new infections in the age group 13 to 24; black/African American** or Hispanic/Latinoa gay and bisexual men are especially affected. Continual HIV prevention outreach and education efforts, including programs on abstinence, delaying the initiation of sex, and negotiating safer sex for the spectrum of sexuality among youth—homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, and transgender—are urgently needed for a new generation at risk.


* Referred to as gay and bisexual in this fact sheet.
** Referred to as black in this fact sheet.

The Numbers

New HIV Infectionsb Among Youth (Aged 13–24 Years)

  • In 2010, youth made up 17% of the US population, but accounted for an estimated 26% (12,200) of all new HIV infections (47,500) in the United States.
  • In 2010, young gay and bisexual men accounted for an estimated 19% (8,800) of all new HIV infections in the United States and 72% of new HIV infections among youth. These young men were the only age group that showed a significant increase in estimated new infections—22% from 2008 (7,200) through 2010 (8,800).
  • In 2010, black youth accounted for an estimated 57% (7,000) of all new HIV infections among youth in the United States, followed by Hispanic/Latino (20%, 2,390) and white (20%, 2,380) youth.

Estimates of New Infections Among Youth Aged 13-24 Years, by Race/Ethnicity and Sex, United States, 2010


In 2010, among 13- to 24-year-olds, there were 5600 new HIV infections in African American males, 2100 new HIV infections in Hispanic/Latino males, 2100 new HIV infections in white males, 1400 new HIV infections in African American females, 290 new HIV infections in Hispanic/Latino females, and 280 new HIV infections in white females.

Source: CDC. Estimated HIV incidence in the United States, 2007-2010. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2012;17(4).

HIV and AIDS Diagnosesc and Deaths Among Youth (Aged 13-24)

  • An estimated 10,456 youth were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States and six dependent areas in 2011, representing 21% of an estimated 50,199 people diagnosed during that year. Seventy-eight percent (8,140) of these diagnoses occurred in those aged 20 to 24, the highest number and population rate of HIV diagnoses of any age group (36.3 new HIV diagnoses/100,000 people).
  • By the end of 2010, of the estimated 39,035 youth living with diagnosed HIV infection in the United States and 6 dependent areas: An estimated 27,621 HIV diagnoses were among young men. Of these, 77% of HIV diagnoses were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact and 13% to perinatal exposure.
  • An estimated 11,413 HIV diagnoses were among young women. Of these, 56% were attributed to heterosexual contact and 34% to perinatal exposure.
  • In 2011, an estimated 3,004 youth in the United States and six dependent areas were diagnosed with AIDS, a number that has increased 29% since 2008.
  • By the end of 2010, an estimated 11,731 youth with an AIDS diagnosis had died in the United States and six dependent areas since the HIV epidemic began.

Prevention Challenges

  • Low perception of risk. A majority of 15- to 24-year-olds in the United States responding to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey said they were not concerned about becoming infected with HIV, which means they may not take measures to protect their health.
  • Low rates of testing. It is estimated that in 2010, almost 60% of youth aged 13 to 24 with HIV in the United States were unaware of their infection, compared to 16% for all ages. In a 2011survey, only 13% of high school students (22% of those who had ever been sexually active), and in a 2010 survey, only 35% of adults aged 18 to 24 had been tested for HIV.
  • Low rates of condom use. In a 2011 survey in the United States, of the 34% of high school students reporting sexual intercourse in the previous 3 months, 40% did not use a condom.
  • High rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some of the highest STI rates in the United States are among youth aged 20 to 24, especially those of minority races and ethnicities. The presence of an STI greatly increases a person’s likelihood of acquiring or transmitting HIV.
  • Older partners. Young gay and bisexual men are more likely to choose older sex partners than those of their own age, and older partners are more likely to be infected with HIV.
  • Substance use. Nearly half (47%) of youth aged 12 to 20 reported current alcohol use in 2011, and 10% of youth aged 12 to 17 said they were current users of illicit drugs. Substance use has been linked to HIV infection because both casual and chronic substance users are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as sex without a condom, when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Homelessness. Runaways, homeless youth, and youth who have become dependent on drugs are at high risk for HIV infection if they exchange sex for drugs, money, or shelter.
  • Inadequate HIV prevention education. Young people are not always reached by effective HIV interventions or prevention education—especially young gay and bisexual men, because some sex education programs exclude information about sexual orientation.
  • Feelings of isolation. Gay and bisexual high school students may engage in risky sexual behaviors and substance abuse because they feel isolated and lack support.

What CDC Is Doing

  • CDC uses a multifaceted approach to meet the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy:
  • In 2011, CDC awarded $55 million over 5 years to 34 community-based organizations (CBOs) to expand HIV prevention services for young gay, bisexual, and transgender youth of color.
  • CDC funds health departments and CBOs to deliver effective behavioral interventions.
  • CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health collects and reports data on youth health risk behaviors, and supports many other projects. For example:
    • Funding 19 state and 17 local education agencies helps districts and schools deliver exemplary sexual health education emphasizing HIV and other STD prevention, increase adolescent access to key sexual health services, and establish safe and supportive environments for students and staff.
    • To reach sexual minority youth outside of schools, Advocates for Youth trains and works with staff at LGBT-specific CBOs to pilot and/or implement evidence-based HIV prevention programs specific to black and Latino teen gay and bisexual men.
    • The American Psychological Association provides science-based workshops for school counselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers on how to reach lesbian, gay, and transgender youth with HIV prevention messages in a safe and supportive school environment.
  • Through its Act Against AIDS campaigns, CDC aims to provide effective messages about HIV prevention and to reduce stigma, especially for high-risk groups. Let’s Stop HIV Together, for example, fights stigma by showing that people with HIV are real people—including young people.

View the bibliography.

Additional Resources

CDC-INFO
1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636)

CDC HIV Website

CDC Act Against AIDS Campaign

a Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.
b New HIV infections refer to HIV incidence, or the number of people who are newly infected with HIV within a given time frame (for example, 1 year), whether or not they are diagnosed.
c HIV and AIDS diagnoses indicate when a person is diagnosed with HIV infection or AIDS, but do not indicate when the person was infected.


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