About AIDS

Are Teen Males Sexually Riskier Than We Thought?

Communication by computer continues to amaze us, and sometimes in unexpected ways. Research (and this writer's personal experience) have demonstrated for some time that people feel permission to be more candid when the computer is the medium, and the journal Science recently disclosed a study with serious implications for public health and HIV prevention. The results: American teenage males engage in HIV-risk behaviors more often than previously believed, and they are more willing to disclose such behavior when a survey is delivered by computer.

The National Institutes of Health-funded survey of 1,600 males, ages 15 to 19, revealed that respondents on a computer were about four times more likely to report male-male sex than the respondents to the same survey on paper; 14 times more likely to report sex with an intravenous drug user; and 5.5 times more likely to reveal that they were frequently or consistently high or drunk during heterosexual sex.

This disconnection is sobering, not only because it indicates that seriously higher levels of risk are being taken by our youth than previously thought, but also because it demonstrates yet again that Americans cannot talk honestly and openly about sex. Until frank communication is available and normal, our massive levels of sexually transmitted disease - including AIDS - will continue unabated.

- Sandy Bartlett,

Community Information/Education Coordinator

AIDS Services of Austin

ASA Info Line: 458-AIDS

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