With World AIDS Day approaching on Dec. 1, public health experts are turning their attention to the epidemic that has killed more than 25 million people around the world since the first cases were diagnosed in the early 1980s.
Recent improvements in HIV diagnosis and prevention have led to a decline in new diagnoses in recent years, both in the U.S. and abroad, but a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that the rate of infection has begun to increase among young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who aren't being tested for the condition and don't even know they have it.
CDC Director Thomas Frieden said on a conference call with reporters that “[t]oo few young people are getting tested for HIV,” yet they contribute to more than a quarter of the country’s new HIV infections each year.
“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,” Frieden noted.
Rates of HIV are rising most significantly in lower income communities, where lack of access to health care and discrimination are two factors allowing the virus to spread. “As we work to drive down new HIV infections in all populations, we have to give particular attention to the next generation, especially African Americans and gay and bisexual young men,” Frieden said. “Every young person should know how to protect themselves from HIV and should be empowered to do so.”