Few Sexually Active Teens Are Tested for HIV

Black girls lead other groups, however, in monitoring their status.

Posted: 01/18/2012 04:57 PM EST
HIV Testing for teens

The thought of getting tested for HIV scares many young people.

But fear of knowing one's status isn't the only reason why teens may not get tested. Among the other reasons: Some doctors don't want to test young people based on their own biases; some teens who are on their parents’ insurance don’t want their parents to know they’re having sex; and too many teens don't think they are at risk for HIV — so why bother getting swabbed? 

Whatever the reasons, what we have known for some time is that sexually active teens are falling through the testing cracks. Looking at data compiled from more than 7,500 sexually active teens from across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2010 that a mere 1 in 5 sexually active teens have ever been tested for HIV in their lifetime.

While only 11 percent of white teens and 12 percent of Latino teens had ever been tested, Black teens tested the most out of any racial or ethnic group, with an average of 21 percent. Breaking it down by gender, 25 percent of Black female teens had been tested in their lifetime and 17 percent of Black male teens had been tested. “Black teens are the most at risk, so it's good to see that they are getting tested the most," Laura Kann, a division chief for the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health, told BET.com.

Still, the percentage of Black teens monitoring their HIV status is worrisome, when you consider who is most impacted by this epidemic: The CDC estimates that, although African-Americans comprise 14 percent of the total U.S. population, Blacks accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections in a 2009 study — a rate almost eight times higher than whites.

The CDC recommends that all Americans ages 13 to 64 be routinely tested for HIV. But the key is getting tested every year. One negative test doesn't predict your future for the rest of your life. HIV testing needs to be consistent and yearly.

The CDC data also provides these interesting facts about teen sexuality:

  • Of the female teens interviewed, 12.2 percent had not received any education about HIV/AIDS in school, compared with 13.7 percent of male teens.

  • Among sexually active Black teens, 39 percent of the males had had four or more sexual partners in their lifetime, compared to 18 percent of the females. This was the highest among all other racial and ethnic groups.

  • Roughly 65 percent of Black teens surveyed said the first time they ever had sex was before the age of 13, as opposed to 42 percent of White teens and 49 percent of Latino teens.

How many of you have been tested for HIV? And how often do you get tested?

To learn where you can get tested in your area, go to hivtest.org.

BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.

 

(Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images)

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