April 10th is National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Did you know that in the United States, more than 1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses were in young people aged 13-24 years? Even though recent data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show fewer high school students are reporting to be sexually active, condom use has decreased among this age group. More than 40% of sexually active high school students report not using a condom the last time they had sex. Additionally, only 10% of sexually active high school students have ever been tested for HIV.
It is important for young people to be provided with the tools they need to reduce their risk of getting HIV. Young people need to understand what HIV is, how it is transmitted and what they can do to protect themselves.
Safer sex practices
- Always use a latex, nitrile or polyurethane condom or barrier (dental dam) when having sex (vaginal, oral, or anal).
- Condoms made from "natural" materials may protect against pregnancy but NOT HIV or other STIs.
- Limit your number of sex partners.
- Talk with your partner about their status and getting tested.
- Talk with your health care provider about safer sex practices and getting tested.
- Understand that having sex while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol can increase the likelihood of unprotected sex.
- Do not share needles or "works" if you are injecting drugs.
Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. Talk to your health care provider about getting tested.
You should get tested more often if you:
- are a man who has sex with men
- had sex—anal or vaginal—with an HIV-positive partner
- had more than one sex partner since your last HIV test
- injected drugs and shared needles or works with others
- exchanged sex for drugs or money
- have been diagnosed with or treated for another sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- have been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)
- had sex with someone whose sexual history you don't know
There are also several free and confidential testing centers in Boston. To find a testing center near you:
To learn more about HIV, visit www.bphc.org/hiv.