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HIV is definitely not a fun topic to discuss, but the reality is that teens and young adults continue to become infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). In fact, in 2010, one in four new HIV infections occurred in youth ages 13-24. And about 60% of all youth with HIV don’t know they’re infected, are not getting treated, and can pass the virus on to others without knowing.
We often hear about HIV and AIDS together, and sometimes they’re thought to be the same thing. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a treatable, but un-curable virus. If left untreated, HIV can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is the stage of infection that occurs when a person’s immune system is badly damaged, and they become vulnerable to other infections. HIV can be spread through sexual contact, sharing needles to inject drugs and from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.
People with HIV may have flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, and fatigue, but you can’t rely on symptoms to tell whether you have HIV — the only way to be sure is to get tested.
The most common age group to transmit AIDS is 19-40 years old, and the second most common age group is ages 14-18. Although AIDS it is not as common in teens, it’s important to still be aware and protect yourself. Teens living with HIV can feel as if they are all alone and might feel embarrassed around their peers. If you know someone with HIV, the best thing to do is to be there for them as a friend and to encourage them to act responsibly.
Being responsible when engaging in intimate relationships is extremely important because diseases like HIV and AIDS can affect a person’s partner for life.