It’s no surprise that teens are having sex younger and younger these days. The Centers for Disease Control reports that as recent as 2013 the median age for first time intercourse is 17 years old. But why exactly are gay and bi teens not getting tested for HIV?
A new study conducted by Northwestern Medicine and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that gay teens aren’t getting tested for HIV either because they don’t know where to get tested, are afraid of being recognized at a testing center, or think that they are less likely to contract HIV for whatever reason. The results showed that only 30 percent of participants had been tested for HIV although over half of the testing field has been sexually active.
In 2014 researchers enrolled a diverse group of 302 gay, bisexual and queer-identified males ages 14-18 into a text messaging-based HIV prevention program know as Guy2Guy or G2G. Enrollees were questioned about their HIV-testing behaviors. The researchers found only 20 percent of the teen boys had ever been tested for HIV, a rate much lower than for their adult counterparts.
By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010 study of men who have sex with men found that 75 percent of men ages 18 to 19 reported they had been tested for HIV. In the same study, the CDC found that young gay and bisexual men accounted for nearly 19 percent of all new HIV infections. Men who have sex with other men remain the most at-risk group for contracting HIV. The CDC adds that a lack of condom use; partnering with older, more experienced men and homelessness also contribute to the high rate of HIV among same-sex loving teens.
The new findings suggest testing rates could be increased by providing young men with an easy access to HIV testing centers or at home testing kits.
This study and others suggest that more accessible testing centers or at home testing kits could potentially increase the frequency that gay and bi teens get tested for HIV.
This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.