US: Men Who Have Sex with Men Receive Less HIV Education

According to a recent study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), young men who have sex with men (MSM) are less likely to receive school-based HIV education than young men who have sex with women, leading to a higher risk of HIV infection.

Researchers aimed to evaluate HIV education and sexual risk behaviors among young men who have sex with men (YMSM) relative to men having sex with women (MSW) in order to identify the relationships between HIV education and YMSM sexual risk behaviors.

The study, published in LGBT Health, found that 84% of MSM reported learning about HIV in school compared to 90% of MSW.

“It’s striking that the young people who are at most risk of HIV are least likely to report HIV education in school,” Julia Raifman, ScD, SM, lead author, assistant professor, health law, policy and management, Boston University School of Public Health, said in the study.

Researchers used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Youth Risk Behaviors Surveillance System that collected information on sex of sexual contacts and HIV education in 2011 and/or 2013. HIV education, number of sexual partners ever and in the past 3 months, and condom use at last sex were all assessed, controlling for age, race/ethnicity, state and year.

Across the board, school-based HIV education was associated with lower odds of having 3 or more partners in the last 3 months and higher odds of condom use at last sexual encounter.

The risk behavior differences were more pronounced in MSM than men who only had sex with women, more than doubling the odds of using a condom at last sexual encounter and reducing 5 times the odds of having 3 or more partners in the last 3 months.

HIV education was associated with reduced sexual risks behaviors among all students, with more dramatic reductions among young MSM than their peers.

“I am hopeful that this evidence will prompt more states to make sex education inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender populations,” Raifman added. “Condoms and PrEP are very effective approaches to preventing HIV, but they won’t do any good unless those most at risk know about them.”

The disparity may reflect that sex education is not inclusive of sexual minority students, the study authors said.  Read more via MD