Soaring Rate of Adolescent AIDS Infection

Growing up as a teenager in today”s society is not as easy as it may have been in generations past. Young adults of today’s era face many social and environmental issues that plague them with immense stress. For example, violence among youth and, more specifically, school shootings and gang violence strike fear among every adolescent”s mind before they face each day at school. And the pressure from peers for using and abusing illegal drugs is as strong as it has ever been. But today, the youth of America are faced with a crisis unique to the modern era; the soaring rate of adolescent AIDS infection.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, causes the terminal Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS weakens the body”s immune system to a point where any ordinary infection, such as the flu or common cold, can cause death. Originally thought of as a “Gay-Man”s” disease when AIDS was first prevalent in this country in the early eighties, AIDS is now recognized as a major crisis across the country among heterosexuals, in addition to the homosexual population of this country (Mays, Albee, & Schneider, 1989). And in recent years, the rate of occurrence of AIDS among America”s youth has increased at an almost exponential rate. The statistics are startling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the estimated 40,000 new HIV infections occurring each year, over twenty-five percent of those infections occur among youth under the age of twenty. In 1986, 53 adolescents were reported with AIDS. One decade later, the number climbed to 403. And just one year later, in 1997, the number of total cases of adolescent AIDS in the United States reached 2,953 (Fuentes, 1998). Today, AIDS is recognized as the fifth most common cause of death among people ranging from ages 14-24 years (A Decade of Denial: Teens and AIDS in America, 1992).

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