Prevention Is Failing to Target MSM When They're Young Enough

Published: July 29, 2010

If we are going to prevent HIV transmission in young men who have sex with men (MSM), we must find strategies to reach them when they are in their early teens. So say researchers who presented a study Monday, July 19, at the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna.

HIV infection among young MSM is often a conundrum. Studies show that they understand what sexual acts place them at highest risk for HIV infection, but many engage in unprotected anal intercourse with other men of unknown HIV status. What is paradoxical and frustrating is that when prevention researchers ask the young men why they engaged in high-risk behaviors, they typically respond that they didn’t think that what they were doing would lead to becoming infected.

To better understand the context behind this kind of reasoning, D. Dennis Flores III, from Emory Healthcare in Atlanta and his colleagues conducted interviews with 10 young MSM from that city who had recently been diagnosed with HIV. Nine of the men were African American, and one was Latino. Their ages ranged from 18 to 24. The interviews with the young men covered four topic areas: risk behavior, HIV education, the Internet and healthy role models.

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