Health Education Seen as Key to Halt AIDS Rise in US Youth

Jessica Berman

In the early years of the HIV-AIDS epidemic in the United States, the disease was primarily associated with homosexuals and people who injected illegal drugs. But over the years, heterosexual transmission has accounted for a growing number of AIDS cases, including increasing numbers of young people who are becoming infected with the incurable illness. In this segment of our Youth and Politics series, VOA's Jessica Berman reports on the attitudes of America's young people toward the disease and efforts designed to educate them.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 40,000 new cases of HIV infection reported every year in the United States. Half of them are in people under the age of 25.
Teenage girls are at the greatest risk. In 2002, more than half of new HIV cases were reported in girls between the ages of 13 and 19. Young African Americans represented 65 percent of AIDS cases reported among 13 to 19-year-olds.
A group of teenagers at a high school in suburban Washington, D.C. offer recently offered their views on HIV-AIDS.
"I think that it's a very big problem, but I don't feel that it affects us directly," said one teenage girl. "Like, I'm sure that it does, but because of the lack of information we're receiving and we're not educated enough about it, we don't see it as a problem that's going to affect us immediately."

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