National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day: Taking Action to Improve Health Outcomes

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Each year on April 10, National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) provides an important opportunity to reflect on accomplishments and chart the way forward. Taking stock of what the young people of our country need this year is especially important as we realize the true impact the past two years have had on their physical and mental health.

Data on HIV prevalence among young people tell us that about 20% or 1 in 5 new diagnoses occur among people between the ages of 13 and 24 and that these rates tend to be higher among young men having sexual intercourse. sex with men (MSM) and transgender women.1 HIV data also tells us that approximately 44% of HIV-positive young people do not know they have the virus.1 and therefore do not receive care for themselves or reduce their viral load to prevent further transmission. Among high school students, in 2019, only 9% had ever been tested for HIV.2

Data on the health behaviors and experiences that put young people at risk of contracting HIV present a more nuanced picture. In the decade before the COVID-19 pandemic, risky sexual behaviors and high-risk substance use declined significantly, but condom use declined significantly. More than 10% of female high school students said they had been sexually assaulted, a trend that hadn’t changed for at least 10 years, and more students said they hadn’t been to school for safety reasons. Finally, mental health, which had been trending in the wrong direction for several years, became even more of a concern during the pandemic, especially for LGBTQ youth.3

Recognizing that there is still work to be done to support young people at risk of or living with HIV, the National HIV/AIDS Strategydesignates young people aged 13 to 24 as one of its priority populations.4 The strategy calls for greater emphasis on primary prevention for young people, increased HIV testing, awareness of status and linkage to prevention or care services for young people, and improved viral suppression among young people living with HIV. There are other strategies that affect young people, including increasing the number of schools that have implemented LGBTQ-supportive policies and practices and increasing the number of schools offering sexual health services on square. The CDC will continue to do everything in its power to collaborate with federal and non-federal partners to implement actions that improve HIV outcomes among youth and help the nation meet NHAS goals.

School is one of the main ways we can help young people prevent HIV. Schools play a vital role in primary HIV prevention by providing young people with knowledge and skills through health education. They can also be an important gateway to needed HIV prevention services such as condoms, HIV and STI testing, and PrEP. But one of the most important things schools can provide is a sense of connection and belonging, and a safe space for all young people, including LGBTQ youth.

CDC What works in schools approach harnesses the power of schools to make them places where young people can thrive. Our approach promotes quality health education, helps schools put systems in place to connect young people to health services, and makes schools safer and more supportive by promoting activities to increase school connectivity and support. to LGBTQ youth.

We have seen that schools that implement the What works in schools demonstrate improvements in their students in reducing sexual risk, decreasing substance use, and are less likely to experience sexual assault or avoid school due to concerns about violence.5 In schools that implement policies and practices to support LGBTQ students, such as creating or strengthening Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs), identifying safe spaces, and implementing policies anti-bullying, we not only see better mental health and lower rates of suicide attempts among minority students, but also fewer suicide attempts among heterosexual students.6, 7 Reducing the behaviors and experiences that increase the risk of contracting HIV and STIs while supporting our young people who need it most is a goal within reach today.

On NYHAAD and every day, the CDC joins our partners in making sure young people have every chance to stay safe, stay healthy, and stay healthy. Help us promote NYHAAD by accessing our digital toolkit and uploading and sharing materials on social media using the #NYHAAD hashtag. Together, we can help ensure a healthy future for our young people.

1 CDC. HIV Infection Diagnoses in the United States and Dependent Regions, 2019. HIV Surveillance Report 2021;32.

2 CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2019. MMWR Supplement 2020;69(1):1-83.

3 CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Data Summary and Trends Report: 2009-2019. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2020.

4 The White House. 2021. National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States 2022-2025. Washington DC.

5 Robin L, Timpe Z, Suarez NA, Li J, Barrios L, Ethier KA. Impact of local education agencies on school environments to reduce health risk behaviors and experiences among high school students. J Teen Health. 2022 Feb;70(2):313-321. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.08.004. Published online September 14, 2021. PMID: 34531096; PMCID: PMC8792165.

6 Kaczkowski W, Li J, Cooper AC, Robin L. Examining the relationship between LGBTQ-friendly school health policies and practices and psychosocial health outcomes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight students. LGBT health. 2022 Jan;9(1):43-53. doi: 10.1089/lgbt.2021.0133. Published online December 17, 2021. PMID: 34935516.

7 Harper CR, Johns MM, Orenstein D, Pampati S, Jones TM, Leonard S, Taylor KR, Robin L. Association between LGBTQ student non-discrimination laws in some states and school district support for same-sex alliances. J Adolescents Health. February 11, 2022: S1054-139X(21)00678-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.11.032. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35165028.

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