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Teens: AIDS Most Urgent Health Problem

Survey Shows Young People are Concerned about HIV Infection
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April 3, 2003 -- Ask American teens what the most urgent health problem facing the country today is, and chances are that one in four will respond, "HIV/AIDS." A new Gallup survey shows that despite the recent decline in AIDS and HIV infection deaths, 24% of teenagers say the disease is the nation's most pressing health issue.

Cancer was the second most popular response to that open-ended question with 17% of teens surveyed naming it the top health issue, followed by obesity (12%) and healthcare costs/insurance (7%).

Those answers differed greatly from what their parents' generation had to say. Only 8% of adults said AIDS and HIV infection was the country's biggest health problem. Instead, those over 18 said health costs/insurance was the most important issue, followed by cancer (21%), obesity (7%), and heart disease (5%).

Only 2% of both groups said health problems caused by smoking/tobacco were the most urgent health issue.

Researchers say the percentages between the adults and teens may vary slightly because the teens were surveyed over the Internet and the adults were polled over the telephone, but the general conclusions still hold.

They say it's not surprising that teens were more likely than adults to name AIDS and HIV infection as the top health issue because they are at an age where they are just starting to become aware of their sexuality and become sexually active.

In addition, few teens are responsible for obtaining their own health coverage or paying for their own medical care. Adults, in contrast, are more likely to be concerned with these types of financial issues related to health care costs.

But researchers say the high level of concern about AIDS and HIV infection expressed among teens should bode well for the ongoing battle against the disease. They say awareness is vital to future efforts to prevent the spread of the disease.

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