Do Teens Lack Life-Saving Information On HIV?
Sexually active teens know about the dangers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Many are also aware of the existence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Yet, this is about where the information ends. Today, 1 in 4 teens and young adults still get diagnosed with HIV. Experts believe these numbers may be higher as not all sexually active teens test for HIV. However, these stunning figures are sometimes due to a lack of awareness, resources, and information. If teens understand the dangers from a young age, those with the highest risk could begin to take precautions that will be vital in adulthood.
MSM are at the highest risk
Of all sexual orientations, men who have sex with men (MSM) have the highest risk of contracting HIV. Unprotected anal sex is more likely to transfer viruses, especially among men with HIV who have not received treatment. Teens and young men can easily get infected because most are unaware of the partner’s sexual history or miss STI symptoms. Educating teens about the dangers of contracting HVI can help reduce risky sexual behaviors. Teens can also have healthier relationships through testing and open communication about HIV status.
Limited knowledge of proper contraceptive methods
One of the most common ways teens contracts HIV is through unprotected sex. In a survey, 43% of sexually active teens admitted that a condom was not used during a recent consensual sexual encounter. Teens do not like the feel of condoms and assume the consenting partner has no STIs. Some teens have never been tested. The correct information at a young age can change this perception. However, some do not have the resources in schools, while others do not use the resources available. This lack of use can come from the home, where conversations about sex are taboo. The dangers and risks continue to rise as teens ignore the value of protection.
Prepare with PrEP
There are other preventative measures that are even more effective than condoms. Sadly, many sexually active teens are unaware these exist. For instance, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a daily pill to prevent HIV from spreading through sex. If taken correctly, PrEP can reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by as much as 99%. This treatment is an excellent option for people with a high risk of contracting HIV, such as MSM.
Teenage years involve experimentation, and some may try recreational or injectable drugs. Some teens may not be sexually active but can still contract HIV. For people who inject drugs (PWID), the risk of contracting HIV through shared needles is high. Furthermore, PrEP can only reduce the risk of contracting HIV through needles by 74%. Despite knowledge of the method, many PWIDs refuse PrEP, believing that the pill is only effective for MSM. Because of this, PWIDs are still at high risk.
Fewer myths, more education
Teens and many adults are still unaware of the facts and myths surrounding HIV transmission. As a result, most are not adequately equipped to protect from this deadly disease. Education is key to combatting this severe problem. By teaching from a young age about the facts along with debunking myths, the HIV stigma may be lessened. Teens will also feel empowered to adopt safer sex behaviors. Considering the severity of this issue, parents need to work hand-in-hand with various local organizations to keep teens safe and protected from HIV.