AIDS experts are concerned that unprotected sex is becoming more common among young people, in light of data presented last week at the 2003 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta showing that more than half of all new HIV infections are thought to be occurring among people younger than age 25, The New York Times reports. About half of all youth newly infected with HIV are women, compared with about one quarter of those over age 25, and about two thirds of all newly infected young people are African-American, according to the study data. Experts also say HIV-positive youth are less likely than other HIV-positive people to know their serostatus, which puts their sex partners at risk for infection if they carry the virus.
AIDS activists say the rising HIV infection rate is a sign that young people are not responding to safer-sex campaigns urging them to protect themselves against infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. "We are concerned about attitudes toward AIDS in younger patients who have been sexually active since AIDS or HIV infection has become a treatable disease," Harold Jaffe, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, told the Times. Prevention conference attendees said new HIV prevention campaigns are needed to specifically target at-risk youth and urge them to practice safer sex and to be tested for HIV antibodies. Prevention outreach also should specifically focus on at-risk minorities to help lower the infection rates in those vulnerable populations, the AIDS experts said.