Youth living with HIV who do not use condoms risk spreading HIV to prospective partners, as well as acquiring sexually transmitted infections from their partners. Like other youth, they also increase their own risk for other sexually transmitted infections. Because many youth living with HIV were treated in infancy and early childhood, however, they may not know their own HIV status or they may not understand the implications of being born with HIV.
In a cohort of more than 300 youth who were living with HIV, researchers supported by the Maternal and Pediatric Infectious Disease Branch found that about 20% of youth who have had HIV since birth did not know their HIV status when they first became sexually active. Moreover, of those youth who knew they had HIV and who were asked about disclosure of their HIV status to their first sexual partners, most reported that they had not told their partner prior to sexual activity. Most of these sexually active youth reported some sexual activity without condom use.
The scientists recommended that families and caregivers inform children about their HIV status before they reach adolescence and become sexually active. They also urged physicians and other health care providers to make sure that youth living with HIV understand the importance of safer sex practices and of disclosing HIV status to prospective partners (PMID: 23139252).