HIV and the Church

Programs targeted at getting sexually active adolescents tested for HIV have not actually improved screening rates, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This finding is particularly troubling as 44 percent of adolescents and young adults with HIV don't realize they have it – the highest percentage of any age group.

While young adults made up 17 percent of the U.S. population they account for over a quarter of all new HIV diagnoses. Research suggests that nearly half of U.S. high school students have had sex, often without using condoms. About 15 percent report having had at least four sex partners.

The study, reported in the journal of Pediatrics, found that on average, only 22 percent of high school students and 33 percent of young adults age 18 to 24 who report ever having sexual intercourse also report being tested at least once for HIV. These rates did not improve in the period from 2005 to 2013. In fact, testing rates declined significantly for young women, dropping from about 42 percent to 40 percent overall.

Declines in screening for black women and the lack of gains for young men are particularly troubling because these groups have higher risk of HIV infection than other young people. 57 percent (7,000) of all new young people infected with HIV in 2010 were black (the latest figures available). Hispanic/Latino youth accounted for 20 percent of new infections (2,390) and white youth accounted for 20 percent (2,380).

The study suggests that it is imperative for parents, educators and medical professionals to do a better job of talking to teens about sexual health, in addition to starting conversations about sexual health at an early age before sexual activity begins. "Adolescents who feel they can talk to a parent tend to have better statistics in terms of partner selection and protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” stated one health professional. 

These statistics also suggest that there is a role to be played by the church in helping promote honest conversations among families and to begin championing healthy behavior at a young age.



NBC News

Associated Press


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