How Are Teens Affected by HIV?

Young people are at risk for contracting HIV and developing AIDS. CDC estimates that in 2011, more than10,000 young people, age 13 to 24, were diagnosed with HIV, and over 2,900 had been diagnosed with AIDS in the U.S.  In the past, most of those cases were in adolescent males. That ratio is changing as more females become infected.

In youth, as in adults, some populations are more affected than others. For example, Blacks/African Americans age 13 to 19 represent only 15 percent of the U.S. teenage population, but accounted for nearly 70 percent of the HIV infections among people age 13 to 19 in 2010. The reasons for this gap aren’t completely understood; in fact, Black/African American youth have lower rates of drug abuse than Whites and Hispanics. This remains a strong research priority for NIDA.

In general, middle and late adolescence is a time when young people engage in risk-taking and sensation-seeking behaviors that may put them in jeopardy of contracting HIV. Regardless of whether a young person takes drugs, unsafe sex increases a person's risk of contracting HIV. But drugs and alcohol can increase the chances of unsafe behavior by altering judgment and decision making.