Teens Are Not Immune to H.I.V.

Published January 1, 2003

Newly reported H.I.V. infections in the under-25 generation rose in 2002. The increase was troubling and may be due to the fact this younger generation never experienced the fear surrounding AIDS in the mid-1980s.

Of the 40,000 new infections in 2002, more than half are thought to be in people younger than 25, and most of those cases involved transmission by sexual contact.

Experts say young people infected with H.I.V. are less likely to be aware of their disorder, and there is growing evidence young people are less likely to comply with the demanding course of therapy. A recent pediatrics study discovered only 28 percent of H.I.V. infected adolescents reported taking all of their prescribed medicine in the previous month.

A unique Florida after-school program run by the Children’s Aid Society includes the traditional sex education component. But much of the emphasis is on “above-the-waist” education.

Intensive and individualized programs are a departure from the standard stand-alone sex education classes covering the use of condoms and other safe-sex messages.

Dr Michael Carrera , founder of the Florida program, said none of the 5,000 teenagers who had been enrolled in the program over the past 19 years had tested positive for H.I.V. The smaller, broader programs are developing impressive track records of success.

The key to success lies in giving more responsibility to the teenagers themselves and in promoting abstinence as the only safe course.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.