An important key to fighting HIV infections among young people is encouraging them to get tested and reduce risk factors. But how many young folks are actually getting swabbed? Better yet: Given that Blacks are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, how many Black teens are stepping up and taking control?
More than before, says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among all teens, African-Americans were more likely to get tested for HIV/AIDS. Also, risky sexual behavior dropped the most among Black teens, almost 20 percent between the years 2005-2013.
But let’s not celebrate too soon.
HIV testing is still extremely low: Only one in five teens knows their HIV status. In 2013, 28 percent of Black youth in grades 9-12 were tested for HIV; 21 percent among Latino youth and only 18 percent among white youth.
Even worse news: While Blacks are making the most progress, they still have the highest risk for HIV and have more partners than their white and Latino counterparts, which means that more needs to be done.
“African-American youth has made tremendous strides in protecting themselves, however they continue to shoulder a disproportionate burden HIV and STD infections,” said Stephanie Zaza, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.
“It’s important that we build on progress in reducing sexual risk behaviors among African-American students while working to provide all young people with essential information, skills and services to protect themselves from HIV and STDs.”
Other findings included:
—Female teens were more likely to get tested (27 percent vs. 18 percent of male students).
—More teens are using condoms than ever before. In 2013, 59 percent of teens used a condom in the past three months compared to 46 percent who did not. Black teens were more likely to rap it up, with 65 percent of them using condoms.
—More teens are waiting to have sex, with 56 percent of teens having sex in 2005 dropping to 47 percent in 2013.
— The number of teens having multiple sexual partners has gone down from 19 percent in 2005 to 15 percent in 2013.
While the study doesn’t explain the “why” behind the data, it’s important for the 72 percent of Black youth that don’t get tested for HIV to understand just how important knowing your status really is. You are all at risk for HIV, regardless of gender and sexual orientation or even how many partners you have.
Now is the time to take control of your life and your health. When it comes to HIV, knowledge is power.
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(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)