Gay teenagers aren’t being being tested enough for HIV, study finds. But there’s a glaringly obvious solution
A study of gay, bisexual and questioning teenage boys in the United States has revealed that the majority have never had a HIV test.
Researchers surveyed nearly 700 boys aged between 13 and 18 and found that less than one in four had ever had a HIV test, Healthday reports.
They also asked the boys about their sexual activity and history and found that just one third of teenage boys who have had sex without a condom had taken a HIV test.
Teenage boys who took part in the study thought they couldn’t legally consent to HIV testing because of their age.
Researchers discovered various barriers teenage boys face in looking after their sexual health. Many believed that their age meant they could not legally consent to a HIV test. Others did not know how to go about getting tested, while more were afraid of being outed.
The study, which was published online yesterday in the Pediatrics journal, revealed the best solution to the lack of testing is, of course, education. Teenage boys who had open dialogue with their parents about sex and HIV as well as those who knew basic facts about the virus were more likely to get tested.
Doctors – pediatricians in particular – need to be having more frank and open conversations with their male teenage patients.
The study’s authors also noted that 15 per cent of HIV infections in the United States are undiagnosed, but his figure rises to 51 per cent among 13-24 year-olds.
“Doctors – pediatricians in particular – need to be having more frank and open conversations with their male teenage patients,” said study co-author Brian Mustanski.
“If parents ask their teen’s provider to talk about sexual health and testing, this may be enough to start that key dialogue in the exam room, leading to an HIV test,” he added.
He also said that teenage boys should be empowered to be able to speak about these issues with doctors without their parents present.
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Antiretroviral drugs mean that people with the virus can now live healthy and happy lives.
While HIV was once a death sentence, progress in medical science has led to breakthroughs that mean people can now live healthy, happy lives with the virus.
Antiretroviral drugs are used to treat the virus, and when taken effectively, a person’s viral load is undetectable. A major study that concluded last year found that people on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on through unprotected sex.
Furthermore, the availability of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), when taken daily, prevents people from contracting the virus through unprotected sex.