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The Tribal Times

HIV testing remains low among teens

photo by pixabay

photo by pixabay

by Briana Clinkscales, Editor

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Adolescents and young adults between the ages of 13 and 24 comprise 17 percent of the U.S. population, represent 26 percent of all new HIV infections, and nearly half of them do not know they are infected.

 
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that leads to acquired immune deficiency syndrome — AIDS. When the disease was first discovered in the 1980s, a diagnosis of HIV might as well have been a death sentence. That was because there were no treatments, but today there are drugs that can treat people with HIV and prevent them from developing AIDS. Before doctors can prescribe these life-saving medications, they first need to know that someone is infected. That’s why, in 2006, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommended that doctors screen everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 for HIV, but that recommendation has been difficult to put into practice, especially among young people.

 
“I think maybe 10 years ago educators pushed the practice of safe sex because of the high ratio of students with HIV,” administrator Krystal Wattley said. “But I think now those practices have toned down; I don’t even see a lot of PSA’s about HIV anymore.”

 
There are many reasons why teens and young adults don’t get tested. Pediatricians find it challenging to even start a conversation with teens about sex and its risks, leaving teens to deny the question “Are you sexually active?”.

 
Doctors and young patients may downplay the risk of HIV and think testing is unnecessary because teens aren’t considered a high-risk group, but HIV/AIDS doesn’t just affect certain communities, it can affect anyone who’s engaged in unprotected sex.

 

 

“There are diseases that can be harmful that are asymptomatic,” Healthcare science teacher Anquia Bowden said. “You can go months, even years without knowing you’ve contracted this disease because you don’t recognize the symptoms.”

 
The reasons that youths don’t get tested vary, but there are common reasons that touch youth across all demographics, especially questions about what love and sex means after a positive HIV diagnosis.

 
Results remain confidential
Doctors can have a tough time keeping patients’ requests confidential when all blood tests must be documented on the visit summary. A positive test result could lead to families withdrawing emotional and financial support or even kicking someone out of the house. Teens fear their parents finding out that they’re sexually active, because in a lot of cases parents aren’t aware that their child has allowed something so consequential to dictate their health — leave alone HIV positive.

 
“It’s comfort in going in numbers,” Bowden said. “Whether you’re sexually active or not you’re showing your friends that they have a support system when you tag along and go to get tested with them.”

 

Paying for treatment
Teens who are too young to have their own health insurance and young adults up to age 25 who are on a parent’s health insurance plan will likely need family support to pay for medication. Without insurance, they often need to contact the department of health — whose medication often runs $3,000 a month.

 

Stigma
The fear of isolation and humiliation can be intensified for those with strong religious backgrounds. They may feel their faith or community will abandon them because of their sexual identity. Stigma and its related stress may lead to feelings of low self-worth and harm the mental health along with overall well-being of adolescents.

 

“A lot of students may just be embarrassed or afraid about what their parents may think about them,” nurse Dianna Colcombe said.

 

 

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. Multi-pronged testing strategies, like provider education, adolescent-friendly testing services, and sexual health education will likely be needed to increase testing and reduce the percentage of adolescents and young adults living with HIV infection.

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “HIV testing remains low among teens”

  1. Cassandra Steele on December 16th, 2016 10:36 am

    Briana this article is amazing. Not only is it informative, but it’s very truthful and straight forward. Continue doing what you do best!!

    [Reply]

  2. Brandy cousar on December 16th, 2016 12:13 pm

    This is a very good article. Very well written.

    [Reply]

  3. Rhonda Stephens on December 16th, 2016 8:23 pm

    Briana, I love your article! Not only is it interesting, but it’s educational as well.
    Keep up the good work, because success is on it’s way.
    Please know that I’m forever proud of you Cuz!
    *****Much love and success to you*****

    [Reply]

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The student news site of McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia
HIV testing remains low among teens