Childhood and Adolescent HIV Prevention

by Michael_Koger

The occurrence of human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV) in children and adolescents is a major public health problem.

In the United States, the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases in this population is a challenge for many reasons [1]. First, teenagers do not have a good comprehension of barrier methods for the prevention of pregnancy or disease spread. For example, they may not know that certain contraceptive approaches such as intrauterine devices or hormonal methods do not protect against the acquisition of human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV).

Inadequate Health Education

Adolescents tend to change sexual partners frequently, and they do not always use condoms.  Even if they have one sexual partner at a time, their approach of serial monogamous relationships is, in fact, a form of multiple sexual partners.  Moreover, their lack of knowledge about barrier methods of birth control commonly leads to childhood and teenage pregnancy and the acquisition of sexually transmitted infections [1]. 

Inadequate education about sexuality, therefore, significantly contributes to the especially high rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.  Of the 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections in the United States each year, nearly half of them occur in adolescents and young adults [1].  Some pregnancies occur in children between the ages of 10 and 13 [1]. 

Media Influences

The mass media in the United States and other parts of the world also influence attitudes and beliefs that young people develop about sexuality [2].  Specifically, television programs and movies project scenes in which there are sexual relationships between unmarried persons.  Music videos show that as well, and the lyrics of these songs are highly suggestive of sexual themes.  Dancers display body movements and clothing attire which arouse sensual perceptions of the observer [2].

The effects of mass media are of much concern among pediatricians as the images of sex, violence, illicit drug use, and certain gender roles are quite impressionable upon children and adolescents.  This is because young people experience these exposures when their growth and development undergo many changes [2]. 

Sex Education

There is much controversy over sex education in America's public schools.  Teachers may come under investigation after parents complain about the use of biological terminology to describe the human reproductive system in sex education class.  Nevertheless, schools are in a position to exert much influence on children and adolescents as they encounter at least 56 million students every year in the United States [1]. 


In conclusion, the control of sexually transmitted infections in children and adolescents requires sound health education in the school system as well as parental involvement.


1.  Centers for Disease Control.  (2013).  Adolescent and school health.  Retrieved March 31, 2013.  

2.  Gruber, E. and Grube, J.  (2000).  Adolescent sexuality and the media.  Western Journal of Medicine, 172, 210-214. 

3.  The photo is a thin-section transmission electron micrograph of several human immunodeficiency virus particles.  Reprinted with permission from Centers for Disease Control/Dr. A. Harrison/Dr. P. Feorino.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 04/30/2013, Michael_Koger
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katiem2 on 05/02/2013

Very interesting articles. I recently read HIV is on the rise among the youth from ages 14 to 22 or so, this is a very important message.

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