CDC study finds higher HIV risk for gay teens despite similar sexual behavior

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New federal data find little difference in the sexual behavior of gay and heterosexual teenage boys but a significant difference in the risk of HIV infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented study results Wednesday that indicate gay and bisexual teenage boys are at a “substantially higher risk” of contracting HIV.

The higher risk is partially attributable to the higher incidence of HIV that already exists within the gay male community but is also compounded by more common intravenous drug use, the agency announced at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.

Specifically, the analysis of male students in ninth through twelfth grades found:

  • 51 percent of gay/bisexual high school boys had sexual intercourse, compared to 41 percent of heterosexual boys.
  • 35 percent of gay/bisexual boys and 30 percent of heterosexual boys currently were sexually active.
  • 15 percent of gay/bisexual boys and 11 percent of heterosexual boys had four or more sexual partners.
  • 48 percent of gay/bisexual boys had used a condom in their last sexual encounter, compared to 58 percent of heterosexual boys.

Despite the similar sexual behavior, gay or bisexual high school teens are at greater risk in part because HIV diagnosis rates are 57 times higher among gay men.

{mosads}“The higher level of HIV in a sexual network dramatically increases the risk of HIV exposure with every sexual encounter,” according to the CDC.

Even though HIV is generally sexually transmitted, the agency said, the higher rates of HIV could also be a result of a “disproportionately” higher incidence of drug use among gay/bisexual teen boys. Gay/bisexual teens are eight times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to use heroin, six times more likely to use methamphetamines, three times more likely to use cocaine and two times more likely to use prescription drugs without permission.

Congress took action in December to allow some states and local communities to use federal funds for certain components of syringe services programs. The CDC also released a new opioid prescribing guideline in March aimed at reducing opioid abuse and overdose.

The data mark the first nationally representative picture of gay/bisexual and heterosexual teen boys, according to the CDC, and come from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which included questions on sexual identity and sex of sexual partners for the first time in 2015. The CDC will publish a broader report later this year. 

This story was last updated on July 28 at 1:06 p.m.

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