Infected but oblivious: Young Americans with HIV often don’t know

A new report by the CDC estimates that more than a quarter of new HIV infections are among the young, and 60% of those young people don't know they have the virus.
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

More than a quarter of new HIV infections in the U.S. occur among people ages 13 to 24, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, about 60% of those young people with HIV don’t know they have the virus.

The release represents the most recent analyses by the CDC. It was timed to coincide with World AIDS Day, which is Dec. 1.

According to the CDC, about 12,200 young Americans became infected with HIV in 2010, with African Americans representing more than half of those newly infected. Young gay and bisexual people were also hit particularly hard.


The infection rates among young people are particularly troubling because CDC analyses show that they are less likely to get tested, enter treatment or stay in treatment once enrolled, in part, the CDC says, because of the stigma the virus that can cause AIDS carries.

Only 22% of sexually experienced high school students have been tested for HIV. But that may soon change. Last week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that nearly all Americans ages 15 to 64 get tested for HIV as a routine measure.

The CDC’s director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, called the HIV rates a “preventable tragedy” because “all young people can protect their health, avoid contracting and transmitting the virus and learn their HIV status.”

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