New research presented at AIDS 2016 indicated no significant differences in several HIV-related risk behaviors among heterosexual, gay and bisexual adolescent males in the United States.
Young gay and bisexual men, however, were found to be more susceptible to contracting HIV largely because their partners are more likely to be infected with HIV, according to a press release from the recent conference in Durban, South Africa.
The data, presented by CDC researchers, is the first nationally representative look at HIV-related risk behaviors among gay, bisexual and heterosexual male students in ninth through 12th grades. Proportions were similar among all groups who answered questions about several behaviors, including ever had sexual intercourse, currently sexually active, had sexual intercourse with four or more partners, and used a condom the last time they had sex. The gay and bisexual male study population had a 57-fold increased risk for contracting HIV compared with heterosexual young men due to the prevalence of infection in their male sex partners.
“Although most HIV infections occur after high school, it is critical to help teens establish behaviors today that will protect their health now and in the future,” Jonathan Mermin, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in the release. “Ensuring access to HIV prevention interventions and information is critical to avoiding HIV infections during the teen years — and could have lasting impact over the course of a lifetime.”
Other data suggested that gay and bisexual teens participate in injection drug use at a substantially higher rate than their heterosexual peers, which could lead to a greater increase in HIV infection through needle-sharing. Ten percent of gay and bisexual male high school students reported having ever injected drugs vs. 2% of heterosexual males. In addition, the CDC reported that gay or bisexual young men are significantly more likely to admit having ever used a higher number of drugs that may be associated with sexually risky behavior, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and prescription drugs without a physician’s note.
“Overall, [men who have sex with men (MSM)] — including those who inject drugs — account for 60% of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States,” the release said. “In 2014, 13- to 24-year-olds accounted for more than one in five (22%) HIV diagnoses. Among the 13-to 24-year-olds diagnosed with HIV in 2014, 80% were gay and bisexual males.”
The CDC recommends additional research and a multidisciplinary approach to address both drug- and sex-related risks for HIV infection in young gay and bisexual men. Strategies include: continued access to HIV testing, HIV-risk education and access to preventive strategies and equipment, family and community support. – by Kate Sherrer
Disclosure: Infectious Diseases in Children was unable to determine relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.