Improved HIV Testing Needed in Young Adults

Large proportion of high risk young adults are unaware they are infected with HIV.

More than half of young people with HIV in the United States don’t even know that they’re infected, which corresponds with recent research that shows that the majority of that population aren’t even tested, according to a recent study.

Researchers assessed data from two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiatives — the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), years 2005 to 2013, and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), years 2011 to 2013. The information included high school students and young adults, defined as ages 18 to 24.

Of those who have ever had sexual intercourse, an average of 22% of high school students (17% male, 27% female) and 33% of young adults had ever been tested for HIV. There was no change in testing rates among high schoolers from 2005 to 2013 or young adult males from 2011 to 2013 — regardless of race or ethnicity.

However, there were significant decreases in young adult female groups from 2011 to 2013.

  • Young adult females: 42.4% to 39.5%
  • Young adult white females: 37.2% to 33.9%
  • Young adult black females: 68.9% to 59.9%

“No increase in testing among young adult males and decreased testing among young adult black females is concerning given their higher risk of HIV infection,” the authors wrote in the journal Pediatrics.

There are several concerns with these findings. For one, it’s a positive thing that testing rates haven’t decreased in young adult males, however, it’s a negative thing that they haven’t increased.

Black females are one of the groups especially at risk for HIV, so the fact that the report shows testing rates have dropped in this population is concerning.

The CDC advises that everyone from ages 13 to 64 be screened from HIV at least once a year. Men who have sex with men may benefit from being tested every three to six months.