Understanding The HIV Epidemic In Texas
Texas leaders continue to implement initiatives to improve overall health and have invested significantly in ending the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic. However, there are still challenges around HIV as cases persist in the state. A recent concern is teens becoming infected with the disease. Providing support and resources to affected groups is one of the best strategies to prevent the spread of this sexually transmitted infection (STI) and other disease.
Statistics you can’t ignore
Recent figures estimate that over 96,000 Texans are living with HIV. The number of people living with HIV (PLWH) figures may seem high. However, medication has extended the lifespan of many affected individuals. Each year in Texas, there are an estimated 4,500 new infections. Researchers also estimate that about 1 in 6 Texans may be infected with HIV but not yet diagnosed. Of these cases, 70% are African American and Latino. In addition, people who inject drugs (PWID) are also at risk of HIV infection. This data is crucial to help implement strategies to reduce the spread of HIV in the community.
Why are teens at risk?
About 1 in 5 HIV cases occur among those ages 13-24, meaning thousands of teens are at risk yearly. Teens often go through experimental stages and phases, which increases the risk of STIs. Some communities are underserved and may lack proper health education or prevention resources. However, there have been significant strides in getting the right resources to underserved communities. Despite access to information, teens succumb to peer pressure or cultural pressures that make HIV protection taboo. Both adults and youth must collaborate effectively to reduce the risk.
How can HIV be prevented?
Reducing the risk comes down to education, resources, and advocacy. The groups with the highest risk must receive counseling and resources at a young age. This information should be translated into formats teens can understand, like social media and teen advocates. Parents should also be educated individually and with teens to form a united front against the disease. For teens at risk, there must continue to be ways to identify destructive behaviors and perform the necessary interventions. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), condoms, and other preventative measures must be made available for little to no cost. These strategies will help teens be safer during sex.
A brighter future
The HIV epidemic in Texas requires continued focus, especially for at-risk teenagers. Protecting future adults and leaders is one of the best ways to end the epidemic. There must also be a focus shift to communities and groups that need help the most. The resources must be made available, and these groups must collaborate and mobilize to increase the uptake of these resources. With renewed focus, teens can reduce the spread of this STI while being a positive influence on reducing HIV.