HIV Information and Youth
- In the United States, 20% of new HIV diagnoses in 2020 were among young people aged 13-24.
- Getting tested for HIV is important for prevention since only 6% of high school students have ever been tested for HIV.
Youth Need to Know their HIV Status to Stay Healthy
Almost half of young people (aged 13-24) with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) do not know they have it. For youth who test negative, testing services can connect them to HIV prevention resources. Youth who test positive can be connected to health services and take medicine to treat HIV.
Treating HIV means taking medicine to lower the amount of virus in the blood—so low that a test can’t measure it. This is the best thing to do to stay healthy.
Sexual Risk Behaviors Can Lead to HIV, STDs, and Pregnancy
CDC data show declines in sexual risk behaviors among high school students from 2011 to 2021. Fewer students are currently sexually active. And fewer have ever had sex—down from 47% in 2011 to 30% in 2021.
However, many youth engage in health risk behaviors and experiences that can result in unintended outcomes. According to CDC data:
- Condom use is down. Condom use among sexually active students decreased from 60% in 2011 to 52% in 2021. This is a serious health risk for HIV and STDs.
- Substance use can lead to high-risk behaviors. When youth are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may engage in high-risk behaviors, such as sex without a condom or not taking medicine to prevent or treat HIV.
- Some youth are at higher risk. Some youth—including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning (LGBQ+) youth—are at greater risk for negative health outcomes. For example, about 1 in 5 LGBQ+ students experienced sexual violence in the past year, compared to 1 in 10 of their heterosexual classmates. LGBQ+ students (21%) were also more likely to have ever used illegal drugs than heterosexual students (21%).
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The data show there is work to be done to support healthy adolescent development. Addressing HIV in youth means teaching them skills to reduce their risk, make healthy decisions, and get treatment and care if needed.
Schools Can Help Prevent HIV
The nation’s schools reach millions of students every day. Schools are a place for students to learn about the dangers of unhealthy behaviors, and to practice skills that promote a healthy lifestyle. They are in a unique position to help youth adopt behaviors that reduce their risk for HIV.
What are ways to encourage youth to stay healthy?
- Teach students the basics about HIV and other STDs.
- Promote communication between youth and their parents or families.
- Support student access to confidential HIV counseling and testing services.
How can schools encourage students to get tested for HIV?
- Use health risk behavior data to prioritize needs for health education or services.
- Connect students to health services that include HIV testing and counseling.
- Encourage students and their parents or families to talk about HIV.
What Youth Can Do
Youth need to understand their risk and know how to protect themselves against HIV.
- Get educated. Learn the basic facts about HIV transmission, testing, and prevention.
- Get talking. Talk with parents, families, teachers, doctors, and other trusted adults about HIV and sexual health.
- Get tested. CDC recommends that everyone aged 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. Contact a health care provider about testing.
- Get medicine. If you test positive for HIV, get support, seek treatment, and stay in care to remain healthy and prevent passing the virus to others.
- CDC. Diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States and dependent areas, 2020. HIV Surveillance Report 2021;33.
- CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2023.