Testing Teens For HIV
A key strategy to end the HIV epidemic is to diagnose all people with human immunodeficiency disease (HIV) as early as possible. This means sexually active people and others at risk of getting infected should regularly get tested for HIV. Testing provides important information about current sexual health and HIV status. This is especially important for teens since around have had at least 1 sexual experience. Some teens are eager to hook up, but HIV infections in this group are on the rise. Besides rising cases, here are 3 more reasons sexually active teens should get HIV testing.
1. Lack of education
Despite the various efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of HIV, many young people are still misinformed. Studies show that only a small percentage of middle and high school students have heard of or know someone living with HIV. Resources are available in schools, yet learning about the disease is not a priority. Many teens also believe that HIV infection is uncommon and only happens to men who have sex with men (MSM) engaged in risky sexual behaviors. As a result, most teens are not taking the proper precautions against infection and the spread of the disease.
2. Teens are high-risk
Younger people are more likely than adults to engage in risky behaviors that can lead to the transmission of HIV, including sex without protection, multiple sex partners, and injecting drugs. Teens are often ready and eager to hook up without thinking about the long-term consequences. Some teens have sex without being aware of a partner’s HIV status. Some have HIV and have never been tested. Teens are at increased risk for infection, but regular testing can help protect this population.
3. Knowing status matters
Research shows that knowing personal HIV status influences behavior in many ways. For example, this information can improve sexual and reproductive health and awareness. Teens can also employ more prevention measures and adopt better sex habits like condom use. Knowing HIV status can also help people living with HIV (PLWH) manage the disease early, leading to lower viral loads and improved quality of life. For these reasons, sexually-active teens should get tested for HIV at least yearly.
A test worth taking
Many people still think HIV testing is expensive and time-consuming, but testing is a simple process that takes just a few minutes to complete. Tests are widely available in most doctor’s offices, health centers, and community-based organizations. There are even at-home testing kits that allow people to test discreetly. Once teens are informed and get tested, staying HIV-free becomes easier.