CDC: More Than Half Of Young HIV-Infected Americans Unaware They Have HIV

7:29 PM, Nov 27, 2012   |    comments
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Piedmont Triad, NC -- There are few things that send chills down a parent's spine more than "The Talk"; you know the one about "the birds and the bees", "fact of life" or as some plainly call it "sex."

However you refer to it, it's a talk you will have to have with your kids and many parents don't like the idea of initiating it. A new CDC report may be an eye-opener and perhaps help parents understand why it's important to have the talk no matter how they feel about the discussion.

According to new numbers released Tuesday afternoon, 12,200 young people, ages 13-24, contracted HIV in 2010. HIV infections in young people also make up 26% of new cases each year in the U.S.

To add, 60% of young people with HIV have no idea they are infected, according to the CDC.

News 2 spoke with health experts who say the statistics are disturbing for a number of reasons, including the fact the young people are finding out they are infected even before an adult teaches them how they an get it.

"We need the resources, we need the education, we need the information, and we need the self-love, we need the role models, we need community involvement, we need support, we need honesty," said Lakecia Owens, a women's health educator with the Triad Health Project.

She says a big problem is that young people aren't connecting their sexual behaviors with the risk of HIV. Owens says the CDC numbers should reveal to parents that just having the sex talk isn't enough.

"We really need to not depend on schools to give our children comprehensive sex education," she said. "Parents need to learn to overcome their own fears to save their children."

Kevin Varner, director of prevention services at Triad Health Project also points out another issue.

While 16 years ago contracting HIV was a death sentence, now there are more than a dozen pills to help control the virus.

"Unfortunately a lot of the young people are like, oh, there's a pill for that now. I can take that and it's going to take care of me. Without thinking how are they going to afford it," he asked rhetorically.

According to a 2006 study by a team of researchers at some of the top U.S. universities, treatment for HIV cost between $2,000 and $5,000 a month; a lifetime cost is more than $600,000.

When you put it that way, to any age group, emphasizing the symptoms and side effects makes prevention sound much better than treatment.

Researchers say factors like poverty, lack of access to health care, stigma and discrimination are all to blame for HIV rates in young people.

RESOURCES:

Testing In Guilford County

Testing In Forsyth County

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services

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