Objectives: To compare HIV seroprevalence and sexual risk behavior among very young gay and bisexual men (aged 15-17 years) and their older counterparts (aged 18-22 years). To examine drug-use patterns and correlates of sexual risk behavior in both of these age groups.
Design and Methods: An interviewer-administered cross-sectional survey of 719 gay and bisexual males between 15 and 22 years old was conducted through a venuebased sampling design. Blood specimens were collected and tested for HIV antibodies, hepatitis B, and syphilis. Interviews assessed sexual and drug-use behavior as well as psychosocial variables believed to be related to sexual risk-taking, including self-acceptance of gay or bisexual identity, perceptions of peer norms concerning safer sex, and perceptions of the ability to practice safer sex (safer sex self-efficacy).
Results: Of the 719 participants, 100 (16.2%) were aged between 15 and 17 years. HIV seroprevalence was somewhat lower among those aged 15 to 17 years (2.0%) compared with those aged 18 to 22 years (6.8%). Overall, the prevalence of hepatitis-B core antibody was significantly lower in the younger age group (5.0%) than in the older group (14.1%). The men aged 15 to 17 years used alcohol, ecstasy, and heroin less frequently than those aged 18 to 22 years. The age groups did not differ in the proportion of men who reported any unprotected anal intercourse in the previous 6 months (31.2%). In both age groups, use of amphetamines, ecstasy, and amyl nitrate was associated with unprotected anal intercourse. Self-acceptance of gay or bisexual identity was related to less sexual risk for those aged 15 to 17 years. In both age groups, greater safer sex self-efficacy was linked to less HIV sexual risk-taking. In the younger group, perceptions of peer norms that support safer sex were related to less risk behavior.
Conclusions: Very young gay and bisexual men engage in unprotected anal sex at rates comparable with those for their somewhat older counterparts, raising serious concern over their risk of acquiring HIV infection. To prevent seroconversions, interventions must target those <18 years of age, and prevention programs should address the use of certain drugs in relation to sex and sexual risk-taking. To be most effective, programs should develop innovative communication strategies to take into account lack of self-acceptance of gay or bisexual identity and low self-efficacy for practicing safer sex.
(C) 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.