National Resource Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention Among Adolescents

Despite stable rates of HIV diagnosis in older populations, the rate of HIV diagnoses from 2006 to 2009 has increased in youth 15 – 24 years of age, and was highest in the 20 – 24 year-old age group.1 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, undiagnosed HIV cases are also thought to be highest among young people. In fact, CDC estimates more than half of all undiagnosed HIV infections are in youth ages 13 – 24.2

  • Of adolescent HIV diagnoses, almost 70 percent are to black teens, even though they constitute a much smaller proportion of the adolescent population in the U.S.
  • Almost 80 percent of all adolescent infections are to males. Nine out of 10 adolescent male HIV infections result from male-to-male sexual contact. The same proportion of adolescent females is infected from heterosexual contact.
  • The highest concentrations of HIV diagnoses among adolescents are in the Southeastern United States and, specifically, Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana.3

Although HIV testing is widely available, self-reported rates of HIV testing have remained flat in recent years.4 Forty-six percent of high school students have had sex at least once, yet only 13 percent report ever having had an HIV test.5

The National Resource Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention among Adolescents (Center) is supported by the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with funding from the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund. The goal of this center is to build national capacity in HIV/AIDS prevention among youth by providing a central, online location for resources, professional literature, evidence-based programs and practices, and technical assistance to youth-serving agencies and professionals.

Screening Recommendations for HIV

Sexually active adolescents at high risk should be tested for HIV. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, being at risk includes factors such as males who have sex with other males; having unprotected sex with multiple partners; trading sex for money or drugs; using injection drugs or having partners who do; and adolescents having other STDs. At risk also includes sexually active adolescents who receive health care in a setting in which HIV prevalence is high.6

Curious about what you can do to prevent HIV in adolescence?

Communities can:

Parents can:

Healthcare Providers can:

  • Talk to adolescent patients about their sexual behavior. These discussions should be thorough and non-judgmental in order to identify whether an adolescent is sexually active, and then to screen for high-risk behaviors, like unprotected sex, multiple partners, and drug use.
  • Screen sexually active adolescent patients for STDs. The presence of other STDs, including Chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and trichomoniasis, increases an individual’s susceptibility to contracting or transmitting HIV.8


1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011).HIV Surveillance Report, 2009; Volume 21. Published February 2011. Calculations based on information from 40 states and 5 dependent areas with confidential name-based HIV infection reporting, Table 3b. Available here.
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Surveillance---United States — 1981–2008. MMWR 2011; 689-693. Available here.
3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Slideshow: HIV surveillance in adolescents and young adults. Available here.
4The Kaiser Family Foundation. (2011). HIV/AIDS at 30: A public opinion perspective. Available here.
5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance - 2011. MMWR 2012; 61 (No. SS--4). Available here.
6U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2005). Screening for HIV. Available here.
7Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV, Other STD, and Pregnancy Prevention Education in Public Secondary Schools — 45 States, 2008–2010. MMWR 2012; 61(13); 222-228. Available here.
8Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). The role of STD detection and treatment in HIV prevention- CDC Fact Sheet. Available here.