Black Teens & HIV

profile of an african american teenager( — Adolescence is a time of dramatic physical, emotional, mental and social change. The transitions that occur usher youth into the social and sexual world as independent beings. These changes provide opportunities for positive growth experiences, but they also bring new vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately, young people in the U.S. and other parts of the world are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. One of the hallmarks of adolescence is the formation of a sexual identity, while another is the inclination for taking risks. When mixed, these characteristics can be dangerous, as reflected in the fact that half of all new HIV infections each year are estimated to occur among youth aged 13 to 24.

The Challenges of Adolescence

Adolescence is marked by a move toward independence and a challenge to family traditions. But young people do not exist in a vacuum. They are a part of social networks that can make living with HIV easier or harder.

Young people with HIV face the same challenges as their HIV-negative peers, including experimental behavior and development of the skills needed for adulthood. But youth with HIV must address these challenges while living with the stigma of their disease. Their choices regarding intimate relationships, sexual activity, and experimentation with drugs and alcohol are complicated by:

• Fears of rejection
• Side effects of HIV drugs
• Uncertain life span
• Disclosure and transmission
• The impact of loss
• Stigma