Chicago Tribune Examines ‘Growing Threat’ of HIV/AIDS Among Teenage Girls
The Chicago Tribune on Tuesday examined the "growing threat" of HIV/AIDS among young women in the United States. According to a recent federal study, 64% of new HIV cases between 1999 and 2002 occurred among women, the majority of whom were girls ages 13 to 19, the Tribune reports. "Young people aren't getting the right messages and they suffer from the myth of invulnerability, very prevalent among 14- to 19-year-olds," Lisa Henry-Reid, chair of the division of adolescent and young adult medicine at Stroger Hospital in Chicago, said. In addition, many teenage girls "cannot negotiate safe sexual practices" because they are in relationships with older men or do not have high self-esteem, according to the Tribune. Teenagers also may not be getting adequate sexual education from parents or in schools, the Tribune reports. A 2003 Kaiser Family Foundation study of adolescents and young adults showed that one in four young people contract a sexually transmitted disease annually. The study also found that 70% of women ages 15 to 24 consider forms of contraception other than condoms -- such as birth control pills -- to be "safer sex," and 80% consider oral sex "safer" than vaginal or anal intercourse. According to Cynthia Tucker, director of prevention at the Chicago Women's AIDS Project, "the community doesn't know how to deal with the problem of HIV." In addition, most sexual education is "about abstinence and leaves [teenagers] ignorant of what the real threat is," Staci Bush, a physicians' assistant at Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago, said. "This is just a different generation. They're more sexually active but ignorant," Bush added. As a result, HIV-positive young women "feel isolated, fear disclosure and stigmatization, and remain silent about their status," according to the Tribune (Lauerman, Chicago Tribune, 9/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.