Young Minority Youth Still Engaging in Risky Sexual Behaviour
Even as the international community gets a choke hold on AIDS more than 30 years into the fight, a new generation of HIV infected persons is emerging.
Health officials in the United States have used World AIDS Day which was observed on December 1, to sound the alarm about the rising negative trend of new infections among minority youth.
These were some of the glaring statistics mentioned in a recent report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC):
- About 1 in 4 (26%) of all new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24 years. About 4 in 5 of these infections occur in males.
- Nearly 60% of new infections in youth occur in African Americans, about 20% in Hispanics/Latinos, and about 20% in whites.
- Over half (54%) of new infections among young gay and bisexual males are in African Americans.
- About 87% of young males got HIV from male to- male sex, 6% from heterosexual sex, 2% from injection drug use and about 5% from a combination of male-to-male sex and injection drug use.
- About 86% of young females got HIV through heterosexual sex and 13% from injection drug use.
- More new infections occurred among young black men than in any other group of youth by race/ethnicity and sex.
Against this backdrop health practitioners are calling for continued wide-scale public education campaigns even as some fear an ‘AIDS fatigue’ after all these years and that some youth may simply be turning a deafening ear to the constant message.
Advocates insist that condom use has to be promoted; that sexually active young people and injection drug users must be encouraged to be tested Dale* a 24-year old gay teacher, hanging out with his 20-year old partner at the Christopher Street Pier in New York City recently told this reporter that while he understands the risks, he does not use condoms with his partner whom he has been dating for a few months.
“We know each other. We trust each other,” he insisted with a laugh, while turning to his boyfriend, Mario* to mock seriously ask, “You are not stepping out on me, are you?” The couple, of Caribbean backgrounds declined to give their full names as they were not out to their families.
Both men had not had an HIV test in more than a year but said they knew they were not positive. Dale noted that condom use among his friends was sporadic.
Most of them used condoms with new or short term encounters but seldom followed through once they were in a committed relationship. Situations like these are what the medical community finds worrying.
According to the CDC, most young people are not getting tested for HIV and about 60% of them do not know they are infected. Young men in particular are far more likely than young women to have HIV and are also less likely to get tested.
However, young black men are more likely to get tested than youth of other races or ethnicities.
The CDC reports that gay and bisexual men are 40 times more likely to have HIV than other men, and that research has shown that gay youth who have sex with older partners are at a greater risk for HIV infection.
This is so as the older men are more likely to have had more sexual partners or other risky encounters, and more likely to be infected.
One longtime activist mentioned that the youth too want to have their sexual moment - their carefree, sex-charged years and that some have figured out that there is an abundance of over-caution when it comes to sex.