The HIV-infected youths can be classified into two groups. One that acquired the infection at birth from their mothers or from injected blood products, and is hopefully diagnosed and on antiretroviral therapy. The other group consists of those who acquired the infection during their young years.

Young people do tend to be less cautious than their elderly counterparts and the reasons that cause HIV infection and AIDS in these youths reflect just that – their reckless nature without any worry for the consequences. Check out the figures for the youth. The figures worldwide, country-wise and region-wise make interesting reading simply for the alarming numbers.

Causes, risk factors, and the numbers of youth

Most adolescents who have HIV infection have acquired it through sex. Even a single encounter has a significant risk of catching the virus.

AIDS is the number one cause of death among young people (ages 10-24 years) in Africa. It is the second leading cause worldwide. Young women are twice as likely to get HIV infection as compared to young men.

The number of adolescents living with HIV has risen by 28% between 2005 and 2015.

The number of adolescents (ages 10 to 24 years) who died from an AIDS-related illness increased three times between 2000 and 2015. This is the only age group, which has shown an increase in its numbers.

Teenagers fall prey to the infection mainly due to unprotected sex (sex without the use of condoms) with an infected individual. The sex could be MSM, vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Most of the young people living with this virus are from low and middle-income countries, with 85% living in sub-Saharan Africa. It was here in Africa that HIV had its origin among mankind and first made history.

As a matter of fact, half of the 15 to 19-year-olds in the world who are infected with HIV are from just these six countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

Even if the current progress of awareness is maintained, estimates suggest that the number of 10 to 24-year-old young Africans is set to increase to more than 750 million by 2060. This is a devastating figure by any standards.

Those addicted to drugs could be infected due to sharing of the needles. In some countries, the injection of drugs is a major reason for HIV infection, mainly among young people.

They include Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, North Africa, the Middle East, and many parts of Asia and North America.

Even alcohol and non-injecting drug use increase the risk of sexual HIV among the young crowd.

The United States

Talking of the United States, let us see what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has to say.

According to the CDC, young people between the ages of 13 to 24 years accounted for more than 20 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases in 2015.

  • Gay and bisexual males among the same age group made up most new HIV-diagnosed infections among youth in 2015.
  • However, new HIV infections are declining among young gay and bisexual men probably due to awareness and the use of protective gear such as condoms. And most of these cases are gay and bisexual males.
  • Estimated annual new HIV infections decreased by 18% among young gay and bisexual males from 2008 to 2014.
  • Another reason for this epidemic’s high numbers is the low percentage of testing. Among the high school students, only 10 percent have been tested for HIV.
  • Substance abuse is another reason that ranks high in the United States for the spread of HIV.
  • In young people, drinking alcohol and using drugs before sexual intercourse increases the risk. It tends to make one reckless to have unprotected sexual intercourse. Inhibitions disappear and heterosexual individuals turn to become gay and bisexual.
  • Studies conducted show that nationwide, nearly 43% of all high school students (boys and girls) and 49% of boy students who had sex with other boys did not use a condom the last time they had sex.
  • Having sex with multiple partners is another cause why the presence of the virus is rampant among the youth.
  • The presence of sexually transmitted diseases like herpes genitalis and others is a very high-risk factor that increases the potential of getting HIV.
  • The highest STD rates are among youth aged 20 to 24 years, making them very vulnerable to HIV. This is more common among the youth of color.