American Academy of Pediatrics Issues Policy Statement on Adolescents and HIV
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a policy statement, titled "Adolescents and Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection: The Role of the Pediatrician in Prevention and Intervention," that outlines how pediatricians can play an "important role" in educating young adults about HIV transmission, prevention and testing with "an emphasis on risk reduction." The statement also points to the importance of "advocating the special needs of adolescents" for access to HIV information, as half of all new HIV infections in the United States occur in people between the ages of 13 and 24. The statement's conclusions and recommendations are as follows:
- Information about HIV/AIDS and the availability of HIV testing are "an essential component of the anticipatory guidance provided by pediatricians," and should include information about HIV transmission and prevention, as well as the implications of infection.
- Prevention guidelines should include "helping adolescents understand the responsibilities of becoming sexually active." Information should be provided on safe sex practices, including the proper use of latex condoms, and on abstinence.
- HIV testing should be discussed with young adults and encouraged for those who are sexually active or substance users.
- Parental involvement in children's health care is "a desirable goal," but "consent of an adolescent alone should be sufficient" for providing testing and/or treatment.
- Although a negative HIV test can "allay anxiety," delivering the result presents a good opportunity to counsel teens on reducing high-risk behaviors.
- Pediatricians should "provide support, address medical and psychosocial needs, and arrange linkages to appropriate care" for teens who test positive for HIV.
- Pediatricians should help HIV-positive adolescents understand the importance of informing their current and past sexual partners who may have been exposed, providing assistance directly or through a referral to a state or local health department program.
- Pediatricians should advocate for the "special needs" of adolescents concerning HIV information, testing, counseling and treatment (AAP policy statement, January 2001).