According to an article recently published at Aidsmap, over a quarter of new HIV infections in the United States involve young people aged between 13 and 24 years of age. The findings are from the November 27th edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Approximately 75% of the infections involved young gay and bisexual men, where the study also found that HIV testing rates in this age group were low.

The report authors found that more effort is needed to provide effective school and community based interventions to ensure all youths, particularly men who have sex with men have the knowledge, skills and resources necessary to avoid HIV infection. “Health-care providers and public health agencies should ensure that youths are tested for HIV and have access to sexual health services, and that HIV-positive youths receive ongoing health-care and prevention services.” the authors stated.

According to the study, in 2009 young people represented 7% of people living in the United States and that 60% of young people living with HIV were unaware of their infection, with the prevalence of undiagnosed HIV being higher among 13 to 24 year old individuals than any other age group. The study was based on data obtained from a number of sources, including the National HIV Surveillance System, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, and the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. This information was combined with data collected from twelve US states regarding the risk behavior of high school students. I have included some of the results from the survey below:

  • At the end of 2009, the prevalence of diagnosed HIV among young people was 70 per 100,000. Rates differed significantly between states, from a low of 2 per 100,000 to a high of 563 per 100,000. Rates were higher in the South and Northeast compared with the West and Midwest.
  • There were an estimated 47,500 new HIV infections in the US in 2010, and 12,200 (26%) were in young people. Most of the infections in this 13 to 24 age group involved young men (83%).
  • Rates of new HIV infections among young people differed according to race/ethnicity and were highest among African Americans (57%), followed by Hispanic/Latino (20%) and white people (20%).
  • Almost three-quarters (72%) of new infections in 13 to 24 year old individuals were attributed to sex between men. A further 5% of infections were due to a combination of sex between men and injecting drug use.
  • Restricting analysis to men showed that 87% of new infections were in gay/bisexual men.
  • The majority (54%) of new infections in gay/bisexual men involved African Americans.

The study also found that risk behaviors among high school students found that 26% of gay and bisexual men were more likely to report four or more partners and that 3% included injecting drug use. Further analysis found that 24% of gay and bisexual men were more likely to have sex after drug or alcohol use and 70% were significantly less likely to use condoms. The overall prevalence of HIV testing among 18 to 24 year old individuals was only 35%. HIV testing guidelines in the United States recommend routine tests for everybody aged between 13 and 64 years. The researchers found that 13% of high school students had tested for HIV and only 22% of sexually active young people had tested.


  1. Very high rates of HIV infection among gay/bisexual male youths in the United States – Aidsmap
  2. Whitmore SK et al. Vital signs: HIV infection, testing, and risk behaviors among youths – United States. MMWR Weekly Report, November 27, 2012.
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