Young people in the United States remain at risk for HIV infection. An estimated 56,300 Americans are infected with HIV each year.1 Of these, 34% -- or approximately 19,000 -- are adolescents or young adults aged 13-29 years.1 Young men who have sex with men (YMSM), especially black YMSM, are at highest risk. This fact sheet highlights the ongoing risk for HIV infection among YMSM and underscores the need to reach each new generation with effective HIV prevention messages and services. Schools and education agencies are important partners in this effort.
HIV infection affects certain groups of young people disproportionately, especially:
Young men who have sex with men:
* In the 37 states and five U.S. dependent areas with confidential name-based reporting since at least January 2005.
a Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.
The reasons for these disparities are varied and not well understood, but possible factors include the following:
Racial/ethnic disparities in HIV/AIDS among young MSM are also not well understood. The disparities do not appear to reflect individual racial or ethnic differences in risk behaviors such as unprotected anal sex, commercial sex work, sex with a known HIV-positive partner, or HIV testing history.10 Possible factors include the high prevalence of HIV in black male social networks, elevated rates of STDs among black men, and the reduced likelihood of black men receiving treatment (which can reduce the amount of HIV in the blood and potentially decrease transmission).10
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey** is being used by some states and large urban school districts to monitor health risk behaviors and selected health outcomes among sexual minority students.† States and school districts participating in the YRBS can add optional questions to the standard YRBS questionnaire, including:
During your life, with whom have you had sexual contact?
☐ I have never had sexual contact
☐ Females and males
Which of the following best describes you?
☐ Heterosexual (straight)
☐ Gay or lesbian
☐ Not sure
In 2009, a total of 17 states and large urban school districts included one or both of these questions on their YRBS. Among these:
Analyses of YRBS data have contributed greatly to knowledge about health risks among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth.11-13 A CDC analysis of data from 13 YRBS sites found that sexual minority students, especially those who identified as homosexual or bisexual, were disproportionately likely to engage in many health risk behaviors, including sexual risk behaviors (such as having sexual intercourse for the first time at younger ages, having multiple sex partners, and not using condoms); tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use; and behaviors related to attempted suicide.13
Adding these YRBS questions enables states and districts to identify risk behaviors among sexual minority students and then adjust intervention priorities accordingly. Furthermore, by documenting that many youth do engage in same-sex sexual activity and various health risk behaviors, these data can help establish the imperative for meeting the health needs of sexual minority youth in schools.