National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day is a time to celebrate progress and educate these populations

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 50,000 people are infected with HIV each year and 1 in 4 people are between the ages of 13 and 24. Young people make up 7% of the more than one million people living with HIV in the United States.

“We know that young people, especially in this age group of adolescents and young adults, are doing a lot worse than adults and young children in terms of HIV outcomes,” Aimalohi (Aima) Ahonkhai, MD, MPH assistant professor of medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), co-director, Center for AIDS Research Scientific Working Group on Social Determinants of Health, and co-director, HIV Adolescent Transition Clinic, said. “…being at a really, really difficult stage of development – we all know that about teenagers – but managing a chronic disease, which is also a stigmatizing disease, they tend to have a lot of difficulty with the Medication adherence, which we know is the single most important thing to living well with HIV and not having complications from the infection.

Additionally, around 60% of young people with HIV don’t know they have it, so they don’t seek treatment – ​​which not only can put them at risk of serious illness and death – but they can transmit HIV. to others without knowing it.

With all of these issues, Ahonkhai says this is an important population to point out.

And thinking of this group, April 10 is National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD). This annual day is an opportunity to recognize this population across the country in high schools, colleges, places of worship, and more.

“This day is a call and a cause for celebration. We have made tremendous progress in the fight against the HIV pandemic in the United States and around the world,” said Ahonkhai.

Yet challenges remain. According to the CDC, the greatest number of infections occur among young homosexuals and bisexuals. Nearly half of all new infections in young people occur in African American men. Ahonkhai points out that adolescents are often confronted not only with the social determinants of health, but also with all that accompanies the disease itself.

“They’re dealing with HIV in a context of circumstances that can be quite difficult because of social circumstances, parental support – which may or may not be present – in the face of poverty… in the face of sexuality… so there could be a lot difficult transitions that young people face at the same time [they] could face this stigmatizing disease,” Ahonkhai said.

A constant with most young people today is the importance of mobile phones, and VUMC has been involved in this area using its (mobile) mHealth interventions to help with medication adherence and add a social aspect alongside a disease that can isolate adolescents and young people. adults.

“We use the positive aspect of peer pressure…having a leaderboard where you see what your [medication] membership is relative to your peers, so you can have a bit of healthy competition, so peers can promote each other,” Ahonkhai said. “And then, it’s also important to make sure that young people don’t feel alone. The applications we work with also integrate peer support. »

Contagion spoke with Ahonkhai who gave an overview of the day, how mHeath can help young people, understand the challenges associated with health equity and how new HIV therapies tailored to younger populations can help address quality of life and compliance issues.

For those who want to learn more about this day and get resources, vendors and people can go here.

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