According to a new study released Friday, twenty percent of young people born with HIV in the United States are unaware of their status when they have sex for the first time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 10,000 people in the United States are living with HIV they got at or before birth.
The study, which appeared in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, also found that youth who were aware of their status did not inform their partners before becoming intimate. Many of these youth admitted to not using condoms during sex.
Rohan Hazra of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development said:
“Our findings show that these young people act very much like their HIV-negative counterparts across the country. However, because of their HIV status, it is extremely important for health care providers, school counselors and family members to reinforce the importance of practicing safe sex, taking medication regularly and disclosing HIV status to potential partners.”
The study consisted of 330 perinatally HIV infected 10- to 18-year-olds enrolled in the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study between 2007 and 2009. The youth were given audio computer-assisted self-interviews (ACASI) to collect their sexual behavior information.
Twenty-eight percent reported sexual intercourse with a median initiation age of 14 years. Sixty-two percent of sexually active perinatal HIV-positive youth reported unprotected sexual intercourse at least once, and only 33 percent disclosed their HIV status to their first sexual partner. The study also found that youth who did not take anti-HIV drugs on a regular basis were more likely to initiate sex than those who took drugs as prescribed.
Youth who lived with a parent other than their biological mother had higher odds of engaging in unprotected sex than those living with a non-relative.
The conclusion drawn by the study was that as perinatally HIV infected youth becoming sexually active, many engage in behaviors that put their partners at risk of also becoming infected. The study recommended that effective interventions be made to facilitate safe sex practices and status disclosure.