Less than a quarter of at-risk adolescent boys ever get tested for HIV

Media Advisory

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Study stresses promoting patient-clinician communication about sexual behavior to encourage HIV testing in teenagers.

What

Less than one in four adolescent men who have sex with men (AMSM) ever get tested for HIV, research funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), part of the National Institutes of Health, has reported. The study, led by Brian Mustanski, Ph.D., of Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, appeared today in the journal Pediatrics

The researchers recruited 699 AMSM participants, aged 13-18 years, from an ongoing trial, called SMART, that is evaluating existing HIV prevention programs. Participants provided data on their age, race/ethnicity and place of residence. Researchers developed a questionnaire to assess their socioeconomic status, and evaluate HIV transmission risk, communication with physicians and attitudes toward getting tested for HIV.

Almost half of the participants were Latino or Black. Although most of the participants had a regular clinician, few had conversations with them about same-sex behavior, sexual orientation and HIV testing. The researchers also noted that older AMSM were more likely to report getting tested than their younger counterparts. Among several factors that encouraged AMSM to get tested for HIV, patient-clinician conversations were the most crucial. The researchers suggested some nonverbal ways to facilitate physician conversations, such as adaptations in the office environment to reflect inclusivity.

HIV infection goes undiagnosed in 51.4% of HIV-positive 13- to 24-year-olds, and four out of five new infections in this age range occur in men who have sex with men. Sexual and gender minority teenagers have a disproportionate risk of acquiring HIV because they face certain structural barriers that prevent them from getting tested. Lack of knowledge about legally being able to consent for testing and the social stigma of being outed are some of the contributing factors.  This study speaks to the urgency of the Department of Health and Human Services program Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America, which focuses on four strategies, including early diagnosis. 

Article

B Mustanski et al.  Factors associated with HIV testing in teenage men who have sex with men. Pediatrics. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-2322

Who

Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., NIMHD Director, is available for comment.

NIMHD leads scientific research to improve minority health and eliminate health disparities by conducting and supporting research; planning, reviewing, coordinating, and evaluating all minority health and health disparities research at NIH; promoting and supporting the training of a diverse research workforce; translating and disseminating research information; and fostering collaborations and partnerships. For more information about NIMHD, visit https://www.nimhd.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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