Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Why Aren't We Worrying About HIV Anymore?

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Last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that there were 40 percent more new HIV infections each year than was previously believed. And yet, a new (2009) survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that Americans, even those in the high risk groups for HIV, are worrying less about HIV/AIDS. How can this be?

The survey suggests that:
  • Fewer Americans consider HIV an urgent health problem.
  • Only 17 percent of people aged 18-29 (those traditionally the most sexually active) reported that they were personally very concerned about becoming infected with HIV.
  • In spite of HIV rates being seven times higher among African Americans, personal concern about HIV has decreased in this population.
  • More than half of people aged 18-29 have not been tested for HIV, in spite of the fact that the CDC now recommends HIV testing for all adults.
The survey also found that misinformation and stigma about people living with HIV still exist.
  • Although 44 percent of the 2,554 adults surveyed reported that they would be comfortable with a coworker who had HIV, 51 percent would be uncomfortable having their food prepared by someone who was HIV positive.
  • One-third of the people surveyed incorrectly believed that HIV could be transmitted by sharing a glass of water; touching a toilet seat; or swimming in a pool with an HIV positive person.
  • 18 percent believed there was a cure for HIV and 24 percent believed there was a vaccine available to prevent HIV.
This is scary stuff and suggests that families, parents, schools, and medical professionals have their work cut out for them - more HIV education, please!
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About the Author

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

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