Partner communication, commitment influenced HIV testing in adolescents

Partner communication about HIV and being in a committed relationship influenced inner-city adolescents to get tested for the disease, according to new study results published in the journal AIDS Patient Care and STDs.

"These findings highlight opportunities for health care providers to include a discussion of the partner's testing status when counseling adolescents about HIV testing," study researcher Hina J. Talib, MD, an adolescent medicine physician at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore and assistant professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said in a press release. "We should include partner communication modules when designing high-impact interventions to encourage HIV testing for high-risk adolescents who need it most."

Hina J. Talib, MD 

Hina J. Talib

In the study, 980 sexually active adolescents aged 14 to 17 years living in the Bronx, N.Y., completed computer-assisted surveys about HIV testing behavior. More than half of the participants were female (56%) and Latino (55%), and 44% had been tested for HIV.

Results indicated that 66% of adolescents reported knowing that their current or most recent partner was tested for HIV/AIDS. Forty-two percent of participants accompanied their partner when he or she got tested, and 44% said they got tested within 60 days of their partner's most recent test.

Additionally, 54% of adolescents in a serious, committed relationship were tested for HIV vs. 44% of the entire cohort. Sixty percent of participants who had high HIV-related partner communication received testing, and 48% of those who reported high openness of communication and comfort discussing sex with their partner had been tested.

Adolescents who had high partner communication about HIV/AIDS were 3.7 times more likely to have been tested vs. those with low communication.

"Despite efforts to educate about the risks of HIV and AIDS in schools, it is clear that more is needed to prompt adolescents to speak up and take the next step of getting tested," Talib said. "Early identification of HIV in adolescents is associated with earlier treatment and better health outcomes, so it is especially important that these sexually active high school-aged adolescents be tested.

Hina J. Talib, MD, can be reached at htalib@montefiore.org.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.