Young gay and bisexual Black males are hit hardest by new HIV-infection rates and that’s not the worst news: Most of them do not even know it, according to survey results released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Young people between the ages of 13 and 24 represent more than a quarter of new HIV infections each year (26 percent), and most of the youth living with HIV (60 percent) are unaware they are infected, according to a Vital Signs report from the CDC.
Young gay and bisexual men and African-Americans represent the group of young people who are most-affected, the report says. In 2010, 72 percent of estimated new HIV infections in young people occurred in young men who have sex with men (MSM). By race/ethnicity, 57 percent of estimated new infections in this age group were in African Americans, the report shows.
The sad news is that most never get tested because of social and economic factors, such as poverty, lack of access to health care, the stigma of being gay or bisexual, and discrimination, the report says.
The data reveals the latest information on HIV infections, testing, and risk behaviors among young people and was published in advance of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, with the hopes of reaching and educating people about the importance of safe sex and getting tested.
“Given everything we know about HIV and how to prevent it after more than 30 years of fighting the disease, it is just unacceptable that young people are becoming infected at such high rates,” Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., CDC director, said during a conference call about the report. “Reducing HIV among young people is a top priority for the CDC. This is about the health of a new generation and protecting them from an entirely preventable disease.”
Dr. Frieden lamented that despite treatment advances, the virus remains incurable, which is a tremendous burden on the health care system. He said the cost of care for a single patient is approximately $400,000 over his lifetime and added that because of the infection rate in young people, the nation is accruing about $400 million in health care costs every month and about $5 billion annually in preventable infections.
Overall, an estimated 12,200 new HIV infections occurred in 2010 among young people aged 13-24, with young gay and bisexual men and African Americans hit harder by HIV than their peers, the report shows.