Saturday, July 11, 2009

by Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio June 29, 2009 St. Paul, Minn. — A new study by the University of Minnesota shows that kids who believe they

St. Paul, Minn. — A new study by the University of Minnesota shows that kids who believe they are going to die young often engage in the very behavior that can lead to an early death.

That runs counter to the conventional belief that teens take risks because they see themselves as invincible.

The study says 15 percent of adolescents believe it's highly likely that they will die before age 35.

"That's more than one in seven youth in this country who look into the future, and don't see a long and winding road ahead of them," said Dr. Iris Borowsky, lead author of the U of M study.

She and her colleagues looked at survey responses from more than 20,000 youth who have been tracked since 1995 through the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

It is a nationally representative sample of students from grades seven through 12. They were first interviewed in 1995, then again in 1996 and in 2001-2002.

The data showed that adolescents who thought they had a good chance of dying earlier often engaged in the very behavior that can lead to death. They had a higher incidence of illegal drug use, suicide attempts, unprotected sex, fight-related injuries, arrests, and diagnosis of HIV or AIDS.

Borowsky says the findings reveal the vulnerability that some kids feel -- a concept that runs counter to conventional wisdom about teens.

"Historically it's been thought that teens think they are invincible, they're invulnerable. And that this feeling of personal invulnerability has been thought to play a key role in why teens engage in risky behaviors," she said.

But the survey results showed the opposite might be occurring.

"This data says that hey, maybe adolescents are taking risks because they actually feel quite vulnerable to dying early," said Borowsky. "So it really is contrary to conventional wisdom."

The perceptions about premature death were especially prevalent among youth of color and those living in poverty.

Shane Price is a community organizer in Minneapolis who works with troubled youth. He says the report's findings mirror much of what he's seen over the years in his community.

But Price says he's not hearing as much hopelessness as he once did. He says President Obama's election as the nation's first African-American president has inspired many young blacks.

"I feel this spirit of activism, this spirit of momentum in the children. And that is what I think is changing," said Price. "And that is what I think comes against some of the findings in this report, in a good way."

On the east side of St. Paul, Mitch Roldan is watching a different story unfold. Roldan is a gang prevention coordinator.

"I have seen in the African-American community, kind of a sense of hope. I would say in the Latino community it would almost be the opposite of that," said Roldan. "With the increasing anti-immigrant sentiment that there is, just more and more kids just kind of feel like they're without hope."

Roldan says when he asks at-risk teens in his community what they hope to do with their lives, more often than not he's told that they don't have any specific goals. He says that's practically unheard of among their peers elsewhere, who typically have plans for college or work.

But that doesn't mean these teens can't change the way they see their future. Researcher Iris Borowsky says there is a growing body of research that shows the benefit of creating hope among kids.

Borowsky is a pediatrician, and she says she now realizes she should ask kids more questions, and reassure them that the odds are in their favor. "What do you think the future holds for you? Do you want to go to college? What do you want to do when you grow up? How long do you think you're going to live? Do you think you're going to die early? Those are questions as that as a health care professional I need to consider asking," she said.

They are also questions Borowsky says all adults should be asking the children in their lives.

The University of Minnesota study on teen mortality perceptions is published in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics.

by Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio
June 29, 2009

Young, HIV-Positive, and Unaware Many Teens and Young Adults With HIV Don’t Know They Have the Disease, CDC Says

June 26, 2009 -- About 50,000 adolescents and young adults aged 13 to 24 were living with the virus that causes AIDS in 2006, but nearly half of them didn't know they were HIV infected, according to the CDC.

The CDC says in its June 26 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that young adults represented 4.4% of the 1.1 million people living with the human immunodeficiency virus in 2006.

That would amount to 48,400 young people with HIV.

The CDC says that 232,700 people in the U.S. were living with HIV that year and didn't know it. Adolescents and young adults represented 9.9% of that number, or some 23,000 youths.

Early diagnosis of HIV infection is critical because detection speeds up medical intervention and informs people with the virus to reduce high-risk behaviors that could spread infections, the CDC says.

The CDC says it used adolescent data from the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The results indicated that nationwide 12.9% of all high school students had been tested for HIV at some point in their lives.

The prevalence rate of HIV testing increased with grade and age.

Prevalence of HIV testing decreased with older age of first sexual intercourse experience, the report says.

Among female students, 14.8% had been tested for HIV, compared to 11.1% of males. The prevalence rate also was higher among non-Hispanic black students at 22.4% than for non-Hispanic whites at 10.7%.

The CDC recommends routine HIV screening for all people 13-64 years old to decrease the number of undiagnosed infections and the spread of new infections.

"HIV testing among sexually active adolescents is an important strategy to reduce the incidence of HIV infection," the CDC says. "Because adolescents might be sexually active but unwilling to discuss this information, health care providers should provide HIV screening routinely to all patients aged 13 and older."

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey estimates the prevalence of health risk behaviors among high school students. The 2007 national survey examined data from more than 14,000 anonymous questionnaires completed by public and private high school students in the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News