A new study published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health found a shockingly low percentage of gay/bisexual male teenagers being tested for HIV.
The study, conducted by Northwestern University and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, found that only 20% of gay/bisexual male teenagers had been tested for the virus and only 30% of sexually active participants reported ever being tested despite the fact that they are among the highest-risk groups for contracting the HIV.
Between June and November 2014, researchers turned to Facebook to recruit 302 adolescent self-identifying gay, bisexual and queer males between the ages of 14 and 18. Participants were asked to fill out online surveys about HIV testing behaviors, barriers to HIV testing and consensual sexual experience.
“Rates of new HIV infections continue to increase among young gay and bisexual men,” senior author Brian Mustanski, PhD, said in the news release. “Testing is critical because it can help those who are positive receive lifesaving medical care. Effective treatment can also help prevent them from transmitting the virus to others.”
The three biggest reasons cited for the lack of testing were not knowing where to get tested, fear about being tested and feeling invincible or not at risk.
One solution, according to Gregory Phillips II, PhD, from the Department of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University: Provide in-school testing.
“If there is a constant presence of on-site testing at schools, testing would seem less stigmatized. It would also increase knowledge about the testing process and make it less scary.”
Because of the use of “purposeful sampling” for recruitment, these results are only meant to represent a general sampling of the population.