Florida teens have the second highest AIDS rate in the nation.
According to the state’s Department of Health, 19 percent of all new HIV infections here occur among individuals under the age of 25.
Of the almost 4000 persons aged 13 to 24 living with a diagnosis of HIV through 2010, 24 percent were from Miami Dade County, 19 percent from Broward County, 14 percent from Palm Beach County and 8 percent from Duval County.
Bad enough if these numbers were absolute, but the fact is that health experts estimate nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of infected youth in this country are unaware of their condition.
According to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavioral Survey (YRBS) many young people in this county begin having sexual intercourse at early ages: 47 percent of high school students have had sexual intercourse with over 7 percent reporting their first experience before the age of 13.
Unfortunately many young people (whether heterosexual, gay or bisexual) also engage in behavior that puts them at risk for HIV/AIDS including not using condoms.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend routine HIV testing of youth in medical settings. However, studies show that only about 35 percent of all 18-24 year olds have been tested for HIV, while only 13 percent of high school students (and 22 percent of sexually experienced students) have ever been tested.
Because so few of those under age 25 are tested, they are significantly less likely than those who are older to get and remain in HIV care, and to have their virus controlled at a level that helps them stay healthy and reduce their risk of transmitting HIV to partners.
That’s why it is important for parents and health care professionals to provide accurate age-appropriate information about HIV infection and AIDS.
The Florida Department of Education offers various HIV/AIDS Prevention Education programs for educators and school nurses including an online workshop given in cooperation with Rutgers University that begins today and runs through February 28, 2013.
The CDC wants to make reducing HIV among teens and young adults a priority. “That so many young people become infected with HIV each year is a preventable tragedy,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. in a recent telebriefing.
Worldwide there are over 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS. Currently over 1 million live with HIV/AIDS in the United States.
While Florida ranks third in the nation in the number of people living with AIDS, Miami-Dade County has the distinction of being the leader in the number of new AIDS cases per capita and Broward County is ranked as number two.
Many have become complacent about the HIV/AIDS epidemic because with the development of new drugs, the disease is no longer an absolute death sentence. However, for teens age 15 to 19, AIDS-related illnesses are the 7th leading cause of death; it is the 6th leading cause of death among people between the ages of 20 – 24.
Bottom line: prevention, early testing, and continuity of care for teens and young adults infected with HIV in our state needs to be a priority in 2013 and going forward.
To learn more about HIV/AIDS
To learn where to get HIV testing in Florida
For information about online HIV/AIDS course email Ksena Zipperer email@example.com