August 28, 2015
1 min read

HIV testing rates low for gay male adolescents

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Gay and bisexual teenage boys were unlikely to undergo HIV testing, according to research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“As one of the first studies to investigate the HIV testing behaviors of adolescent gay and bisexual men, findings highlight the many modifiable barriers that young men face in accessing testing services,” Gregory Phillips II, PhD, of the department of medical social sciences at Northwestern University, and colleagues wrote. “Barriers such as lack of knowledge about the closest testing site are ones that can easily be addressed through interventions and programs that target high school-age adolescents.”

photo of gregory phillips

Gregory Phillips II, PhD


The researchers recruited 302 gay and bisexual boys aged 14 to 18 years through an online social media ad, targeting them for participation in an HIV prevention program. The researchers classified the participants to ensure at least 50% were sexually active.

Study results showed that only 30% of sexually active boys were tested for HIV. Furthermore, 42.9% responded that they did not know where to go to be tested for HIV.

Participants were analyzed to determine the factors associated with not being tested for HIV, and these barriers were classified as external factors, fear, and a sense of invincibility. Sexually active respondents who had never been tested for HIV reported significantly higher instances of external factors (OR = 1.63; 95% CI, 1.01-2.66) and fear (OR=1.88; 95% CI, 1.11-3.19). External factors included not knowing where to receive testing, being unable to get to a testing center, and anxiety over test-center worker attitudes toward homosexuality. Fear factors included needles and the possibility of seeing someone familiar at a testing facility.

The researchers said text message-based and online programs can help teens to identify confidential testing sites.

“Knowledge and education are the best ways we have to overcome these barriers for youth; however, these should focus more on the HIV testing experience to empower them to seek HIV testing resources,” Phillips and colleagues wrote. – by David Costill

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures