June 11, 2015
2 min read

CDC: Sexual behaviors associated with frequency of HIV testing

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A research brief from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics suggests people who exhibit behaviors that put them at risk for HIV — including having one or more same-sex partners or numerous opposite-sex partners — are more likely to get tested for HIV than the rest of Americans.

“In 2011, more than 1 million Americans aged 13 and over were living with HIV infection, and one in seven did not know their infection status,” Casey E. Copen, MPH, PhD, with the National Center for Health Statistics, and colleagues wrote. “Routine, voluntary HIV testing is a recognized way to reduce HIV transmission.”

Some of the key findings of the study for the years 2011-2013 include:

  • Forty percent of active men who have sex with men were tested within the past year, compared with 20% of men who had opposite-sex sexual contact in the past year.
  • More than one-third of females who had sex with females underwent testing for HIV in the past year, compared with approximately one in four women who had heterosexual sex.
  • Females and males who had same-sex partners or multiple opposite-sex partners in the past year had higher levels of testing than those with a single opposite-sex partner.
  • Overall, 19% of those aged 15 to 44 years were tested for HIV within the past year, including 16% of men and 22% of women.
  • Those aged 15 to 34 years were more likely to be tested than those aged 35 to 44 years, and blacks were more likely to be tested than other races.

Additional data showed that women were more likely than men to be tested for HIV for all time periods, and black females were more than twice as likely (45%) to be tested in the past year than Hispanic (21%) or white females (16%). Women aged 25 to 34 years were most likely to have been tested for HIV during the past year (29%), compared with women aged 15 to 24 years (22%) and 35 to 44 years (16%). Women with less education were more likely to be tested for HIV, according to the report.

Like their female counterparts, black men were more than twice as likely (33%) to be tested for HIV in the past year as Hispanic (15%) or white men (13%). Men aged 25 to 34 years had a higher percentage of HIV testing in the past year 19%) compared with men aged 35 to 44 years (13%), but had similar HIV testing levels to those for males aged 15 to 24 years (16%). Education did not appear to be a factor in HIV testing for men, according to Copen and colleagues.

“Percentages of HIV testing in the past year were similar by sex among those who had same-sex sexual contact in the past year,” the researchers wrote. “Among persons with same-sex experience, the risks associated with HIV acquisition and transmission are higher for males because unprotected anal intercourse carries the highest risk of sexual exposure to HIV.

“Results from this report can be used to track the number of people who are routinely tested for HIV, particularly among higher-risk population groups.” – by David Jwanier

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.