Men who have sex with men in their teens may be an underestimated at-risk group for sexually transmitted infections, according to recent findings.
Notably, those who used condoms less regularly had reported a higher median number of sexual partners within the past year.
“In this study of 200 same-sex attracted males aged 16 to 20 years in Melbourne, Australia, sexual behaviors that were reported showed that many of these teenagers were at risk for STIs, including HIV,” Huachun Zou, MD, PhD, of the School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, told Infectious Disease News.
In the study, participants completed a self-administered questionnaire pertaining to demographics, sexual behaviors and condom use. They were also screened for urethral and rectal chlamydia by strand displacement assay, and cultures were taken to screen for pharyngeal and anal gonorrhea. Serum samples were taken to test for hepatitis A and B, syphilis and HIV.
Based on the questionnaire results, the median age at first insertive or receptive anal intercourse was 17 years. Half of the participants reported sex with primarily older men; these participants were more likely to engage in receptive anal intercourse (48% vs. 25%; P<.001) than others. Within the previous 12 months, most of the participants said they had engaged in insertive (87%) and receptive (85%) anal intercourse. Sixty percent of participants reported inconsistent condom use with insertive partners, and 53% reported inconsistent condom use with receptive intercourse partners. Among those who reported inconsistent condom use, the median number of insertive anal intercourse partners was three, which was significantly higher than the median of 1.5 reported by those who consistently used condoms for insertive anal intercourse (P<.001). Likewise, participants who inconsistently used condoms with receptive anal intercourse had a median of three receptive anal intercourse partners within the past year vs. two among those who regularly used condoms (P=.006). Pharyngeal gonorrhea was detected in 3% of participants; rectal gonorrhea was identified in 5.5%; urethral chlamydia in 3%; rectal chlamydia in 4%; and syphilis in 2%.
“Many of the [participants] in this study were at risk for STI,” the researchers wrote. “Preventative messages and STI screening interventions that are age appropriate need to be developed to reduce HIV and STI risk in this under-recognized group.”
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.