US Teens Lack Information
On Avoiding HIV

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Nearly two thirds of American teenagers say they need clear, reliable information on how to protect themselves from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS according to a new report.
African-American and Latino teens--who comprise 84% of new infections among young people--''are even more likely to say they are concerned about becoming infected,'' according to a survey of over 1,500 Americans aged 12 to 17 conducted this past summer by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.
According to US government statistics, half of new HIV infections in the US occur in people under the age of 25.
But just how much does America's youth know about HIV/AIDS at this point in the epidemic? The survey findings indicate:
* Nearly four out of five (79%) young people know there is still no cure for AIDS, while half (51%) have heard of life-extending HIV medications.
* Most young people (91%) know that wearing a condom during sexual intercourse helps protect against transmission of HIV. However, 18% think unprotected oral sex carries no risk for transmission, or were not sure about the risks involved in oral sex.
* Only 41% of teenagers realize that infection with another sexually transmitted disease (such as gonorrhea) increases the risk of becoming infected with HIV.
* Among the one third of teens aged 15 to 17 who say they are sexually active, 62% say they have never considered getting tested for HIV, and only 48% said they would know where to go for a test should they desire to do so.
* One in every five sexually active 15- to 17-year-olds say they use condoms ``only sometimes'' (14%) or ``never'' (6%) when they have sexual intercourse.
Given their spotty knowledge when it comes to HIV/AIDS, it may come as little surprise that 57% of teens surveyed said they wanted to learn more about how to protect themselves from HIV. Most appear to get their information on the subject from either school or their parents, but others cited friends, television, books, and magazines as potential sources for AIDS education.
What is clear from the survey is that most young Americans--especially minority teens--remain keenly aware that HIV is not going away. Over 60% of African-American teenagers said they remain ``very'' concerned about the threat HIV poses to themselves and to their community. Forty-four percent of Latino teenagers said they were very concerned about the issue, as did 28% of white teens.
According to the Kaiser report, ``All teens, regardless of age, sex, race/ethnicity, or whether or not they are sexually active, want to know more.''
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