Adolescents and young adults who acquired HIV at birth are more likely to attempt suicide than their HIV-negative peers, according to the first study dedicated to evaluating suicide risk among youth living with HIV. Those facing stigma and other hardships in life are even more likely to try to take their lives, researchers reported last week at the 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022) in Montreal.
The unique circumstances for young people with HIV are part of a larger problem of youth suicide, which has ballooned in recent decades. Suicide is now the second most common killer of adolescents and young adults, claiming the lives of more than one in 10,000 each year.
Though suicide can affect anyone, certain experiences can heighten the risk. Among young people living with HIV, feeling stigma about their status can be associated with suicide attempts. Other hardships, like dealing with mental illness, pregnancy, a history of arrest, city stress and other negative life experiences are also associated with higher rates of suicide attempts in this group.
“The prevalence of sexually active high school students getting tested for an STI in the past year is relatively low, despite national guidelines,” says a coauthor of the study, Nicole Liddon, PhD, a senior health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These findings are important, as they provide the first national estimates of annual STI testing among a representative sample of U.S. high school students, she adds.
Saturday, April 10, marks National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) 2021. Traditionally, it’s a “day to educate the public about the impact of HIV and AIDS on young people,” according to the nonprofit Advocates for Youth, which spearheads NYHAAD.
The group adds, “The day also highlights the HIV prevention, treatment and care campaigns of young people in the U.S.”
This year, the HIV awareness day also includes a call to action. Youth advocates want you to help them convince Congress to pass the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act. “REPEAL” stands for: “Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal” HIV Discrimination.
The REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act aims to modernize HIV crime laws, such as those that set harsh sentences for people with HIV who allegedly don’t disclose their status before sex—even if they’re undetectable and HIV was not transmitted. (To read a collection of POZ articles about such laws and efforts to change them, click #Criminalization.)
You can support Advocates for Youth’s call to action by filling out an online form that will generate a letter to send to members of Congress.
Please join Human Services Center Corporation in honoring National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Tuesday, March 9 at 5:00PM via Zoom. We will discuss women’s sexual health, women and HIV, and healthy living with HIV. RSVP here. If you have questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-436-9537.
While the eyes of the nation are on the coronavirus pandemic, another threat to public health has been steadily growing in the United States. We’ve been battling rising rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) for the last several years. In fact, 2020 marks the fifth consecutive year of increasing rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis in the U.S., due in part to significant funding cuts to more than 50% of the nation’s public health STI programs. And now the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an even greater burden on our strained public health system and supply chains, shifting focus from one major public health issue to another.
We can’t risk losing one critical resource that will be essential to ending the STI epidemic — the availability of free and confidential STI testing for adolescents. Prior to the pandemic, national public health efforts were scaling up to improve STI and HIV testing, and quickly link youth to prevention services. Rapid identification and treatment of STIs not only has public health benefits in terms of lowering transmission, but when left untreated, STIs increase the risk of infertility, severe pelvic infection, chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy and HIV transmission.
While accounting for 25% of the population, adolescents and young adults comprise over 50% of STIs in the U.S. each year. Black, Latinx, and LGBT youth face the greatest burden of infections and risk of complications. Fortunately, significant advances have been made over the last several decades to improve rates of STI and HIV testing among adolescents and young adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends HIV screening by the age of 16-18 years for all youth regardless of their sexual activity.
Compared with their cisgender peers, gender-diverse teens are more likely to report sexual behaviors that put them at risk for HIV and other sexual health concerns, including the use of drugs or alcohol prior to sex, MedPage Today reports.
Brianna S. McMichael, MSN, MPH, of Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis, conducted a survey of 411 teenagers who came into two emergency departments in the Midwestern city. She presented findings from the study at the American Academy of Pediatrics virtual meeting.
The study recruited young people 12 to 18 years old and provided them with an iPad on which to complete a survey while their parents stepped out of the room. Young people who came to the emergency department for mental health reasons or who were considered at risk for suicide were excluded.
Rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are increasing among women ages 18 to 30 in the United States, a recent study by Quest Diagnostics suggests.
The study, recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed more than 17 million laboratory samples taken between 2010 and 2017 from females ages 12 to 30. Researchers found that while there was a decline in cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea among adolescents ages 12 to 17, women of ages 25 to 30 experienced a 50% increase in positive test results. Women 18 to 24 had a 21% increase in positive test results over the period of the study.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual screenings for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among sexually active women under 25, said Harvey Kaufman, director of Quest’s Health Trends Research Program. For women 25 and older, the CDC recommends screenings only for those with specific risk factors, such as reporting that their sex partner may have a concurrent sex partner. Kaufman, a co-author of the study, said the findings suggest that sexual and contraceptive practices have changed since 2002, when the CDC guidelines were first published.
Kaufman pointed out that the CDC guidelines were largely influenced by a 1998 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that the overall rate of chlamydia among female Army recruits was 9.2%. As a result, the authors of the study recommended a screening program for female recruits 25 and under.
Among young people living with HIV, having a detectable viral load is associated with a slight increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Sitaji Gurung, MD, PhD, MPH, of Hunter College at the City University of New York, presented findings from a study of HIV-positive youth 14 to 26 years old at the 2020 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston last month.
The study relied on electronic health records from the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network 154 Cascade Monitoring, which derives its data from clinics across the United States that care for adolescents with HIV.
Sex positivity is in, sex shaming is out. More people are comfortable talking about what it means to have a healthy sexual relationship, and that’s a good thing. But there’s one thing that many of us still feel awkward or downright avoid talking about: sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
You may know them as sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, which is the term doctors use when an STI has symptoms. (We’ll be using the term STI throughout this article because it’s broader.)
This omission can lead some people to assume there’s no real risk, says Dr. Lindley Barbee, an infectious disease specialist and medical director for the Public Health Seattle & King County Sexual Health Clinic at Harborview Medical Center.
Unfortunately, the risk is very real. Consider this the STI 101 class you probably never got in high school.
School health programs can help young people adopt lifelong attitudes and behaviors that support their health and well-being—including behaviors that can reduce their risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Among U.S. high school students surveyed in 2017:
40% had ever had sexual intercourse.
10% had four or more sexual partners.
7% had been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to.
30% had had sexual intercourse during the previous 3 months, and, of these 46% did not use a condom the last time they had sex.
14% did not use any method to prevent pregnancy.
19% had drunk alcohol or used drugs before last sexual intercourse.
Less than 10% of all students have ever been tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
According to the CDC, prevention programs in schools should provide health information that is basic, accurate, and directly contributes to health-promoting decisions and behaviors.