Shocking new research from the National Aids Trust (NAT) finds that more than a quarter of gay and bi young men don’t know how HIV is transmitted, and over a third of those who had been bullied said they had been by a teacher or adult.
The report, titled ‘Boys Who Like Boys’ is the largest research project of this kind ever conducted in the UK with over 1,000 14-19 year-olds taking part.
It notes that the number of HIV diagnoses among gay and bi men aged 15-24 had doubled in a period of ten years.
According to the research, 55 per cent of respondents said they had experienced bullying and discrimination based on their sexuality, and of those, 39 percent said they had been bullied by a teacher or other adult.
In addition, the NAT study showed that more than a quarter of gay and bi young men (27 percent) said they did not know how HIV is transmitted, and nearly a third still thought you could get HIV through kissing.
Almost three quarters of respondents said they were unaware of Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), which can be taken for up to 72 hours after possible HIV exposure, and can help prevent infection.
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT, said: “We are failing a generation of young men. It is vital that young MSM are equipped with the right information and knowledge to support their sexual health and emotional well-being. Our research published today shows that this not the case. We have found significant gaps in HIV knowledge, sub-standard sex and relationships education at school, and endemic levels of homophobic bullying.
“As a result we continue to see high numbers of new HIV diagnoses and disproportionate levels of poor mental health and problematic drug and alcohol use.
“It is our duty to ensure that young people are safe and supported in school, and leave school with enough knowledge and resilience to look after themselves. Currently this just isn’t happening – and it is a national shame.”
James Hanson, who wrote a foreword for the report said: “I was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 18, I knew very little about HIV at that age. I remember very clearly some awful sex ed lessons at school. I was never taught of the love between two men or two women. I was having feelings I didn’t know what to do with and I felt so isolated because it was never spoken about. Looking back now I feel let down.”
“I strongly believe the education system fails young LGBTI+ people every day. We have won the battle of equal age of consent and equal marriage in the UK, the next fight is to make inclusive SRE compulsory in all schools.”
NAT is calling on the all UK Governments to protect young people by making age appropriate Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), which is inclusive of same-sex relationships, and HIV knowledge, compulsory in all schools in the UK.