MENLO PARK, Calif. – Nearly three times as many Black teens and young adults, and twice as many Latino youth, say HIV/AIDS is an issue that concerns them personally as compared to whites the same age, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 15-24 year olds in the United States.
One in two (49%) Black youth say they are “very concerned” personally about HIV/AIDS today, another 21 percent say they are at least “somewhat concerned;” by comparison, only a third of whites express any personal concern (17% “very” and 18% “somewhat”). Latinos of the same age fall in the middle with 32 percent saying they are “very concerned” personally, and another 16 percent, “somewhat concerned.”
Three in four youth today say HIV/AIDS is a serious issue for their generation (44% “very” and 34% “somewhat”). As with personal concern, young people of color – those from communities that have been disproportionately affected by the disease – are more likely to see HIV/AIDS as a significant issue for others their age. Twice as many Black (62%) and Latino youth (61%) say HIV/AIDS is “very serious” issue for their generation, as compared with whites of the same age (32%).
These differences correspond with the disproportionate affect HIV/AIDS has had on minorities, especially Black Americans, who account for nearly half of new infections in the U.S. today, while representing just 13 percent of the population. Latinos, in particular young gay men, are also among those at greatest risk.
“For many young Americans, especially youth of color, HIV/AIDS is not just a societal issue, but also a deeply personal one,” said Tina Hoff, Senior Vice President and Director, Health Communication & Media Partnerships, Kaiser Family Foundation. “The survey provides hope that young Americans can be engaged, finding that over half say they see themselves as having a role in ending HIV/AIDS.”
While young people are concerned about HIV/AIDS and its effect both on themselves personally as well as for their generation, most appear to have a generally realistic understanding of HIV/AIDS today. Most agree – 25 percent “strongly” and 54 percent “somewhat” – that “it is possible for people with HIV to live healthy, productive lives.”
Stigma Persists as Barrier to Overcome
More than 30 years since the first case of AIDS was diagnosed, one in three (33%) young people say there is still “a lot” of stigma around HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and another 51 percent say there is at least “some.” When asked about their own feelings about HIV, a majority say they would be “comfortable” having a close friend who is HIV-positive (58%) or working with someone who is positive (54%), yet 62 percent say they would beuncomfortable having a roommate who is positive and 86 percent say they would beuncomfortable being in a relationship with someone who is positive.
Acknowledging the gaps in their knowledge and understanding of the disease, many young people say there is more they need to know about HIV/AIDS, including even the most basic facts. A third (36%) say they would like more information about “how to prevent the spread of STDs, including HIV,” about as many as say they would like to know more about who should get tested (35%) and how to talk about testing (34%) and protection (27%) with a partner. Young people of color (54% of Blacks and 61% of Latinos) are more likely than whites (34%) to say that they would like to know more about any of the topics asked about. Younger teens, those ages 15-17 (53%), are more likely than young adults, ages 18-24 (40%), to say they want more information.
Black Youth More Likely to be Offered and to Get Tested
One in three (34%) sexually active young people – and 20 percent of all 15-24 year olds – say they have been tested for HIV. Black youth are twice as likely to report having been tested than whites (50% vs. 25% among those who report having had sex). A third (36%) of Latinos the same age who report having had sex say they’ve been tested. At least some of the young people who say they’ve been tested may be mistaken, as 24 percent said they did not actually discuss it, but rather just assumed it was included with other tests or was a routine part of the exam. Most (65%) of those who say they have been tested for HIV indicate it was part of another health visit; 21 percent say they went specifically to get tested.
For about half (48%) of those who report being tested for HIV, having their health care provider recommend they do so was a motivator in their decision. Yet few health care providers seem to be suggesting testing to their younger patients. Only 21 percent of sexually-active young people – and 13 percent of youth overall – say a health care provider has ever suggested they be tested for HIV. Black sexually active youth are significantly more likely to report having had a test suggested by a health care provider (48%) than whites (13%) or Latinos (21%). For those who report being sexually active but say they have not been tested, the most often cited reason is not believing themselves to be at risk (64%). The next most common response was because their doctor had not suggested it (41%), reinforcing the role of health care providers in testing decisions.
View of the Future and Their Role in It
At a time when many experts are saying an AIDS free future is within reach scientifically, most young people – 74 percent –say they are not overly optimistic about the prospects of seeing the end of AIDS in their lifetime. But, there is hope they can be engaged.
When asked what, if any, role they might play in realizing this potential, most say they see at least some role for themselves with 14 percent saying they see themselves having “a big role” and another 45 percent saying they have “a small role” in helping to end AIDS. Black youth are more likely to see an opportunity to make a difference. One in four (25%) Black young people say they have “a big role” to play in achieving this goal, and another 45 percent see at least some role.
On World AIDS Day – December 1st – I’m Positive, a new documentary special developed with the Kaiser Family Foundation that explores what it means to be young and HIV positive in America today, will debut on MTV (7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT). Produced by Lauren Dolgen, the award-winning creator of MTV’s 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom, together with Dr. Drew Pinsky, the one-hour show follows the lives of Kelly, Otis and Stephanie, three young Americans living with HIV in 2012. From the challenges they face to their hopes for the future, the show provides an up-close and personal look at HIV/AIDS.
I’m Positive is presented by GYT: Get Yourself Tested, a campaign to encourage testing for STDs, including HIV. GYT is produced as part of a 15-year public information partnership between the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV to address sexual health issues facing young people. Gilead Sciences provided funding for the production.
Whether positive or negative, the show encourages all young people to consider their role in ending AIDS. For more information visit: gytnow.org
The poll, designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation, was conducted Sep. 21 ‐ Oct. 1, 2012 among a nationally representative online sample of 1,437 youth ages 15-24 living in the United States. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 4 percentage points. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.
The National Survey of Teens and Young Adults on HIV/AIDS, including a chart pack and the full question wording and methodology of the poll, can be viewed online.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a leader in health policy analysis, health journalism and communication, is dedicated to filling the need for trusted, independent information on the major health issues facing our nation and its people. The Foundation is a non-profit private operating foundation, based in Menlo Park, California.