General Articles

Article Details HIV/AIDS Infection Among Young People

A recent Journal of Adolescent Health article titled “Epidemiology of HIV and AIDS among Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States” explores the demographics of young people living with HIV/AIDS. The article studies the national HIV/AIDS Reporting system from 1985 to 2003 (the most recent year for which data is available) and focuses on youth between 13 to 24 years of age.1

At the end of 2003, 7,074 young people were living with AIDS in the United States. Young people ages 13 to 24 made up 12.2% of all people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States with 63% of young people living with AIDS are between the ages 20 to 24. The majority of young people living with HIV/AIDS reside in the South or Northeast.2

The article reveals disturbing differences among racial and ethnic groups. AIDS rates were significantly higher among Hispanic and black young people. In addition, in 2002, HIV/AIDS was among the top ten causes of death for several groups of youth, including all races and genders age 20 to 24, black males and females age 15 to 24, American Indian males age 20 to 24, and Asian/ Pacific Islander males age 15 to 19. Among females, the majority of infections occurred through heterosexual intercourse and for those age 13 to 15, the majority of infections in females were among black females. Also, an overwhelming majority of young people who identify as men having sex with men that are infected with AIDS are black or Hispanic (83%).

The article discussed several barriers to HIV testing and treatment for young people. The researchers posit that young people are less likely to be tested for HIV because they are usually healthy and have limited interaction with the medical care system. In addition, young people may not have access to places for confidential HIV testing, they may not show any symptoms, they tend to deny they are engaging in high-risk activities, and they may be scared about parents or guardians finding out that they have been tested.

The researchers suggest that programs should be aimed at encouraging sexually active young people to be tested for HIV and that comprehensive health programs should be expanded.3


  1. All information in the article comes from Maria C. Rangel, et al., “Epidemiology of HIV and AIDS among Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States,” Journal of Adolescent Health. 39 (2006), pg 156-163.
  2. Ibid, 156.
  3. Ibid, 162.