Study author Dr. Bill G. Kapogiannis, scientific director of the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions, said more than 30 percent of young males who had sex with other males and who were subsequently enrolled in a government treatment and research network had high levels of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The study participants ranged in age from 12 to 24.
The researchers analyzed the health records of youth with HIV, soon after they enrolled in the ATN. The study authors noted that the high blood levels of the virus seen in the majority of study participants indicated that they were diagnosed early in the course of HIV infection, when the chances for minimizing the health consequences of HIV were greatest.
However, the researchers found HIV was highly likely to be transmitted among members of this group.
"This is not a time for complacency," Kapogiannis said in a statement. "Our results suggest that all healthcare providers who work with young people -- particularly those who work with males who have sex with other males -- should stress the urgency of getting tested, and, if infected, into treatment, which benefits their own health as well as reduces transmission to others."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 1-in-4 new HIV infections occurred in young people ages 13-24. About 60 percent of all youth with HIV do not know they are infected, are not getting treated, and can unknowingly pass the virus on to others, the CDC said.
The study was published online in the journal AIDS.