While the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages 13-64 should be routinely tested for HIV, it doesn't mean that it actually happens, especially among young people.
For many reasons, young people don't get tested: They don't want their parents to know they're having sex; they don't want insurance companies to notify their parents if they test positive; they don't have insurance and don't see doctors regularly; they don’t understand that they need one because they don't believe they're at risk; or doctors assume teens don't need to be tested or they shame teens from getting tested. Most important, young people may not be able to afford getting tested.
To address this testing disparity, researchers from the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center in Providence, Rhode Island, found that teens that are offered free or low-cost rapid HIV testing are often willing to actually get tested. What's even better about their findings is that African-American teens were more likely than any other race of teens to get tested for HIV.
The study included 81 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 21. More than half of all participants were boys; 34 percent were Latino and 25 percent were African-American. Overall, 53 percent of teens in the study accepted the free HIV test, with African-American teens more likely to agree to test compared to Latino youth (75 percent vs. 39 percent).
This is really good news because African Americans bear the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country and rates among young people ages 13-24 are on the rise.
"Given that many adolescents are willing to know their HIV status, policies that support free or low-cost routine testing may ultimately help identify more cases of HIV among teens," said lead author Rebecca Swenson, Ph.D., a child psychologist with the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center. "Our findings suggest that widespread routine testing is a viable HIV prevention strategy for this particular age group." She added, "This is really good news because African Americans bear the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country and rates among young people ages 13-24 have been on the rise."
It can't be stressed enough why it's important to get tested for HIV. Over the years, I have heard all kinds of excuses for not getting tested. And for those who believe, "it's better not to know" or "I don't want to know," the reality is that you can't live your life to its fullest if you don't know your status. Knowing your status and having an early diagnosis can save your life—and protect your sexual partners. Sadly, African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at the same time than any other racial group, meaning they're less likely to get tested until they're very ill.
That's gotta change.
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