Due to advances in the knowledge and treatment of HIV, many people with HIV live healthy, full lives today. Rates of new HIV infections are down in many groups, but not all.

In the United States, more than 1 in 5 new cases of HIV are in people ages 13 to 24. In Africa, AIDS is the number one cause of death in young people ages 15 to 24.

Despite this, many young people aren’t getting tested. The lingering stigma of living with HIV can be a barrier to getting care. In a study of youth ages 15 to 24, 84 percent agreed that there’s stigma about HIV infection.

There’s also misinformation about how HIV is transmitted and what it means to be HIV-positive. Data from 2018 estimated that 45 percent of HIV-positive youth don’t know their status. People with untreated HIV can pass the virus to someone else without knowing it.

But if people receive the right treatment, their levels of HIV can become undetectable, meaning the virus can’t be passed to others.

It’s not surprising that young people are afraid to know or reveal their status. Many young people — especially LGBTQIA+ youth — may already face stigma, bullying, and rejection at school or at home, which can prevent them from getting tested or seeking treatment.

Education is an important part of HIV prevention, but knowledge about HIV is low among HIV-negative youth. Sex education varies and is insufficient in many areas of the United States. The number of U.S. middle schools that provide HIV-prevention education has actually decreased between 2000 and 2016.

Despite all of this, there are some amazing young activists working to change this storyline. Through education and peer support, they aim to lower HIV rates, reduce stigma, and better support other youth living with HIV.