Most Teens Don't Think They're At Risk For HIV Or AIDS, And That Is Terrifying

December 1 marks the 28th annual World AIDS Day. Originally established in 1988, as the very first international global health day, World AIDS Day recognizes not just those who we lost to the virus, but those who are living with it — an estimated 34 million people world wide. World AIDS Day has become essential in educating and creating awareness about the virus that has claimed more than 35 million people since it was officially identified in 1984. But despite these numbers, a new study has found that not enough teens are taking the virus as seriously as they should.

According to the study by LELO HEX condoms, a re-engineered condom from sex toy brand LELO, a whopping 90 percent of teens do NOT feel they are at risk of getting HIV or AIDS. This is a terrifying amount. As someone who was a kid in the late '80s, I clearly remember, although I didn’t completely understand it, the AIDS epidemic. At the time, there was still confusion as to how it could be transmitted and far too long it was something that was wrongly considered to be something that only gay men could get.

Although people are living with HIV and AIDS today, it’s still something to take extremely seriously and not something we should dismiss. Here are seven other findings from LELO HEX’s study that prove, when it comes to AIDS education, we really need to step it up.

1. Over A Third Of Teens Think Smoking Is More Dangerous Than Not Using A Condom


According to the study, 37 percent of teens think that smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol is more dangerous than not using a condom. While there’s no denying that smoking and excessive drinking is bad, skipping out on using a condom can be pretty bad, too. Aside from unplanned pregnancies, both herpes and AIDS are with you for life, and other STIs, if they go untreated, can lead to infertility.

2. Not Enough Teens Are Talking About AIDS


Over 40 percent of teens don’t even talk about AIDS. They don’t have the conversation with their friends, family, or even their healthcare provider.

3. Some Teens Actually Believe They Can’t Get HIV Through Unprotected Sex


In a startling and terrifying realization, LELO HEX’s study found that 30 percent of teens truly believe that they can’t get HIV if they don’t use a condom. While, yes, condoms are used to prevent pregnancy, but if you’re on another form of contraception, condoms chief purpose is to protect against STIs.

4. A Quarter Of People Don’t Know How Long Someone With HIV Or AIDS Can Live


In a separate survey, that didn’t solely focus on teenagers, LELO HEX found that 25 percent of people have zero clue as to the life expectancy of someone who has been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. Although life expectancy now is much longer than it was in the '80s, and it does vary from person to person, people should have a decent grasp on just how long those living with HIV and AIDS can expect to live.

5. Over 10 Percent Would Rather NOT Use A Condom Than Protect Themselves


According to the survey, 12 percent of people would rather play Russian roulette with their sexual health then use a condom. Even one percent would be too high.

6. Some Women Would Rather Take Make-Up With Them On A Date Than Protection


If you’re a sexually active person, condoms are essential. But they’re also more than that. "Condoms are tools for equality,” Lovability’s Co-founder, Claire Courtney, tells Bustle. And she’s right.

With 30 percent of women more likely to bring makeup on a date, or night out on the town, as opposed to a condom, that’s an issue worth noting.

7. AIDS Is Now Viewed As A "Manageable Chronic Illness" (But This Could Be A Problem)


One of the reasons that AIDS has stopped being such a major concern is that thanks to HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) people are living with it and therefore, the public interest in it as something deadly has decreased. This thinking was further validated with the introduction of PrEP, a pill that reduces one’s chances at be infected by HIV even if they come in contact with it. But as Dr. Zhana Vrangalova explained in LELO HEX’s press release, PrEP is not a “magic pill,” only 15 percent of those who start taking it actually remain on it for the long-term, and 65 percent of people who are HIV+ don’t have access to HAART.

In support of World AIDS Day 2016, LELO HEX is hoping to educate through their Education Throughout The Nations campaign, and ask that others show their support by using hashtags #SafeSexUseHEX and #WearingIsCaring on social media.

World AIDS Day may be only one day a year, but every day is another chance to educate, learn, and protect yourself. Condoms are sexy, because taking care of your sexual health is sexy AF.

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