A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that most of the sexually active high school students and young adults in the U.S. do not get HIV tests.
In a report published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers of the study said that only 22 percent of high school students and 33 percent of young adults between 18 and 24 years old who have had sexual intercourse have been tested for HIV at least once.
For the study, which assessed HIV testing among the youth, Michelle Van Hadel, who specializes in HIV/AIDS prevention at CDC, and colleagues looked at the data of high school students between the years 2005 and 2013. They also looked at the records of young adults collected between 2011 and 2013.
Van Hadel and colleagues found that 17 percent of male and 27 percent of female high school students who had sex were tested for HIV. In those between 18 and 24 years old, the researchers found that 27 percent of males and 40 percent of females were tested.
"Increasing the percentage of adolescents and young adults screened for HIV is important for increasing awareness of HIV infection and reducing new HIV infections among this population. However, less than one-quarter of high school students who have had sexual intercourse and one-third of young adults have ever been tested for HIV, and there was no evidence of increased testing," the researchers wrote in their study.
Van Handel said that the low HIV testing rate can be attributed to barriers that adolescents and young adults face. Individuals in this population group, for instance, usually lack access to confidential health care services. Poor knowledge about their sexual health may also lead young people to underestimate risks for HIV infection.
The researchers likewise said that some healthcare providers may not be aware that in 2006, CDC recommended HIV testing for all people between 13 to 64 years old. Experts said that creative strategies may help boost HIV testing among teens and young adults.
"Incorporating HIV testing activities into school activities -- like having a mobile unit available for HIV testing outside the school on a regular basis -- will normalize the activity and hopefully remove some of the stigma that remains around seeking a test," said Gregory Phillips II, from Northwestern University.
Photo: Wheeler Cowperthwaite | Flickr