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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

HIV Testing Among High School Students

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In 2006 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 1.1 million people were living with HIV, 4.4% of whom were 13 to 24 years old, and 48% of those youth are unaware they are infected. Using the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey (YRBS) data from 2007, the CDC estimated that about 12.9% of high school students had been tested for HIV.

The good news is that the highest risk teens were the ones getting tested more often, but only 22% of the highest risk teens had been tested.

To decrease the number of undiagnosed HIV infections among adolescents and promote HIV prevention, the CDC recommends that health-care providers offer HIV screening as part of routine medical care for all people ages 13 to 64. People at high risk should be tested every year, including:
  • Injection drug users;
  • Anyone who exchanges sex for money or drugs;
  • Sex partners of people with HIV;
  • Men who have sex with men;
  • Heterosexual people who have more than one partner since their most recent HIV test; and
  • Anyone who gets a sexually transmitted disease.
High schools can support that effort by including information about HIV testing in the health curricula. People familiar with the benefits and process of the testing and counseling are more likely to be tested.

For teens, I usually suggest they go to anonymous testing sites in their community to be tested, so that the test is not including in their medical record. The anonymity also gives them a little extra courage. The trick is that they cannot lose their test number for the two weeks they wait for results.
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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