Has HIV testing increased among high school students and young adults?

April 1, 2016

Despite 2006 recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that everyone aged 13 to 64 years routinely undergo HIV screening, a study found that testing prevalence remains low among high school students and young adults.

Despite 2006 recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that everyone aged 13 to 64 years routinely undergo HIV screening, a study found that testing prevalence remains low among high school students and young adults.

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To identify any changes in testing prevalence over time, investigators analyzed data from 2 national surveys related to HIV testing among high school students from 2005 to 2013 and among young adults from 2011 to 2013. They found that during 2005 to 2013, the percentage of sexually experienced high school students who had ever been tested for HIV did not change overall or for any gender or racial/ethnic subgroup, remaining low throughout the period. An average of 22% of high school students who ever had sexual intercourse, 34% of those who had sexual intercourse with 4 or more individuals, and 24% of students who had sexual intercourse with 1 or more persons during the past 3 months had ever been tested for HIV.

Similarly, during 2011 to 2013, only an average of 33% of young adults had ever been tested for HIV (Van Handel M, et al. Pediatrics. 2016;137[2]:e20152700).

Commentary: As these authors noted, 26% of new HIV infections in the United States occur in 13- to 24-year-olds, and 44% of adolescents and young adults with HIV are unaware of their infection. Few adolescents will seek screening on their own, but many will be screened if encouraged by a physician. It is up to us to make HIV screening routine. -Michael G Burke, MD

Ms Freedman is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. Dr Burke, section editor for Journal Club, is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. The editors have nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.