Reuters Health reports that a section of the young people is at a great risk of contracting HIV. However, very few from the group are going for HIV testing. For young men from ethnic and racial minorities as well as those who have sex with men, their risk of contracting HIV is higher.
Experts say that the number of youths that get tested for HIV are low and this may be accredited to scarce access to testing. The result of this is having many young people unaware of their HIV status. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that one out of five diagnoses of HIV was among the youth aged between 13 and 24 in 2014.
A study was carried out in Baltimore, United States to find out the extent to which organizations that serve the youth in the area provide HIV testing or encourage them to test for HIV.
Phone surveys were carried out in 2013 and 2014 on 51 officials of youth organizations to find out whether they provide HIV testing for the youth. The organizations included afterschool programs, LGBTQ centres, recreation centres, community centres and religious organizations.
The organizations were asked the following in the survey:
- If the organizations gave HIV testing
- If an employee conducted the tests
For organizations that did not offer testing, they were queried on whether they referred the young people to other programs for testing.
The results showed that majority of the companies gave testing via an outside agency with only 40% offering HIV testing to the youth. Further, 73% of the organizations that did not offer HIV testing services did not offer or refer the youth to other programs that could provide testing.
The majority of the organizations did not offer health-related services. However, they did believe that their staff had the knowledge on health resources and were comfortable to talk about sexual health. Those that did provide general health services had higher chances to provide HIV testing.
Settings, where employees were more at ease to talk about sexual health with the youth, made it more likely for them to provide HIV testing. Moreover, organizations that did provide recommendations for HIV care and STI screening were more likely to provide HIV screening.
Recommendations from the Study
Researchers recommend that it is important for the young people to readily access HIV testing services. This makes it possible and easy for those who are infected to be put under treatment (PEP treatment) before the infection advances to its later stages.
Moreover, for young people to live without knowing their HIV status is quite dangerous as they are a group that engages in a lot of sexual activity, therefore, transmitting the disease is rampant.
Additionally, agencies that are in constant contact with the youth need to provide information on HIV testing, its prevention and treatment options. For the youth to be drawn for HIV testing, agencies that provide the service need to make the environment youth-friendly.
Experts further suggest that the youth should be tested for HIV at least once in a year and more frequently for those who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
Reference: Arik V. Marcell et al, Prevalence of HIV Testing Provision at Community Organizations Serving Young People in a Mid-Atlantic City, 2013-2014, Public Health Reports (2017)