Positive Life NSW Blog

Youth today: Sex, drugs and HIV

Posted by on in Communications

Why do young people need to be part of the global effort to curb HIV transmissions?

Two young people pull travel bags

Globally for young people, HIV remains one of the most challenging health issues. 

Given most of today’s youth born in the 90s missed the HIV/AIDs pandemic that spread through the world in the early to mid-1980s, HIV is not high on their radar. Except for sensational reporting by the media and pop culture and brief mentions in sex-ed classes at school, the risk of HIV doesn’t seem to apply to most young people. 

While the highest risk categories are men who have sex with men and injecting drug users, people aged 15-24 years make up 41 percent of new HIV infections worldwide. In Australia, the dangers of travelling overseas and being naïve about HIV are especially high risk.

We recently heard of two young couples fresh out of grade 12 who travelled to Bali celebrating the end of school and the start of their adult lives. Both young men got tattoos while on holiday. Unfortunately the equipment was un-sterilised and they contracted HIV. It wasn’t long before they’d transmitted HIV to their girlfriends and four young lives were changed forever.

If young people are not informed of their risks of contracting HIV, when they’re in unfamiliar surroundings they easily run risks they never expected in Australia. Of the 354 people in NSW diagnosed in 2013, 21 percent were likely to have been infected overseas. Usually when people contract HIV in their youth, they might not receive a diagnosis until years later when they start experiencing symptoms.

It’s estimated that around 60 percent of all youth with HIV don’t know that they’re infected. Testing for HIV regularly is faster and easier than ever before, and it’s confidential. Identifying when someone has contracted HIV earlier means they can start treatment sooner and reduce their risk of passing on HIV. We need to adapt the messages of ‘Test More, Treat Early and Stay Safe’ for young people, so this has relevance to them and they know to make HIV/STI testing a regular feature of their routine health screening.

We need to empower ourselves and young people with comprehensive and correct knowledge about HIV through sex education (including same-sex safe sex-ed), affordable health care aimed at the younger demographic, and access to condoms. HIV is not caused by the behaviour of a few reckless individuals.

HIV affects us all and we need to start talking about it. We need to support each other and start reducing the stigma that is still associated with HIV. Young people need to be informed and empowered, so they know their risk and can do everything possible to look after themselves and their friends.

If you or your friends need any info about HIV, call Positive Life NSW 1800-245-677 (freecall).

Also at SX/GNN

Last modified on


  • Guest
    HIV & Me Friday, 13 May 2016

    HIV statistics for the end of 2014 indicate that around 40 million people across the globe are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Despite the fact that there has been a significant drop in the number of reported cases in the recent years, the situation continues to remain tense worldwide.

    With the population of HIV infected people increasing with each passing year, it is the need of the hour to educate people about the importance of safe sex and methods of practicing it. As a matter of fact, unprotected sex is said to be the number one reason behind the spread of HIV / AIDS.

  • Guest
    HSV Single Thursday, 21 April 2016

    Herpes has generally been termed as a disease that is quite dangerous. This is not correct. Even though it is a disease and brings its own set of minuscule complications, still it’s not something to be scared of. It happens to a lot of people and people should not simply run from this situation, rather they should face it like a sensible person does. Nowadays a lot of herpes dating sites has become operational and this has given a chance to a lot of herpes singles to contact each other and discuss about things.

  • Guest
    annabelletaylor Wednesday, 16 March 2016

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed that 1 in 5 Americans over the age of twelve has herpes, and the worst part about it is that most of those people are now even aware they are infected with HSV. Herpes is not a life-threatening disease, but it increases a person’s risk of contacting AIDS virus and developing Alzheimer’s in the future, and causes significant discomfort.

  • Guest
    straightmate Tuesday, 20 October 2015

    HIV is not high on young ppl's radar because for years the messages have not targeted the straight community.

    The both got HIV from tattoo needles? Unlikely. It was probably sex, maybe even straight sex. Sex with each other? And both transmitted it to their girlfriends? Sounds like A Current Affair.

    The reason HIV is not high on young people's radar is the lack of education in the wider community and nothing aimed at straight people or heterosexual sexual practices.

    Try doing some wider education campaigns and getting away from this notion of 'risk groups'.

    We need to adapt the messages of ‘Test More, Treat Early and Stay Safe’ for the straight community in general...are you going to advocate for that?

    What about older people? What about heterosexual sex?

  • Guest
    Kassandra H. Monday, 19 October 2015

    Well done, Liz!

  • Guest
    HIV: A Positive Talk Thursday, 15 October 2015

    We can see that HIV is as much a social problem as it is a natural one, and you're absolutely correct in saying that "HIV affects us all and we need to start talking about it".
    It reminds me of a quote from Malcolm X: "When 'I' is replaced with 'we' even illness becomes wellness".
    HIV, and the negative stigma/stereotypes associated with it can be combated through more open dialogue, which is something we can implement at an earlier stage in the life cycle, rather than promoting discussion purely with adults. Sexual education in Australia needs a greater focus on STD's and life-long illnesses such as HIV, and the acknowledgment of safe sex practices, rather than just promotion of abstinence-only sexual education.
    One point in particular we suggest is encouraging regular STD and HIV testing, and promoting it as something that should be as regular as dental check-ups. It's quick, it's easy, and it is a step towards ending the transmission of diseases and having a healthy, happy lifestyle.

    We need to have more positive platforms and conversations about HIV and how we can work together to end HIV transmission.

    Thank you for a great read!

    Reach us on:
    Website: www.hivapositivetalk.wordpress.com
    Twitter: @apositivetalk
    Facebook: www.facebook.com/hivapositivetalk

  • Guest

    Thank you for such an insightful article! We are from Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself ( https://twitter.com/checkb4youwrec ) and we are trying to remove the stigma associated with getting STI and HIV checks and make it normal to regularly get tested and participate in same sex practices. We think it's great that Postive Life NSW is getting the conversation going and raising awareness! We would love it if you could check out our Twitter and Blog!


Leave your comment

Guest Saturday, 04 July 2020

Givenow - make a secure online donation to Positive Life NSWLocation: Suite 5.2, Level 5, 414 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Postal: PO Box 831, Darlinghurst NSW 1300

Telephone: 02 9206 2177 or 1800 245 677 (freecall)
TTY: 131 450    Fax: 02 9211 5672

proudly sponsored by    website design and build by

digialpac                            avernis

Images used are stock photos and do not imply any HIV status, sexuality or behaviours.