Are young gay men really so different? Considering the HIV health promotion needs of young gay men

Published: June 7, 2014


As a means to consider this issue more closely, AFAO has released a discussion paper: Are young gay men really so different? Considering the HIV health promotion needs of young gay men.

The paper aims to consolidate evidence from diverse fields to consider HIV risk among young gay men, and the effectiveness of efforts to address their sexual health needs.

It reviews epidemiological data, social and behavioural research, laws and policy mechanisms, and targeted programmes and services.

The discussion paper uses the term ‘young gay men’ as a shorthand for young men who identify as gay, but also all those other boys and young men with developing sexualities who are same sex attracted but may not yet identify as gay or be sexually active.

Adolescents and young gay men with limited exposure to sex and health education are vulnerable to risk of HIV and STI infection when initiating sex: vulnerability that continues as long as they remain misinformed or lack judgement or power to negotiate safe sexual practice.

Given the developmental way in which sexuality evolves, adolescence and young adulthood can be a tumultuous time for young gay men. HIV education is important at this time because it enables safe sex practice, but also because sex positive messaging countering homophobia can have particular impact. Moreover, behaviours learned now can have lifelong application.

The discussion paper reveals that young gay men receive sex education in a variety of ways: in formal settings (in schools and from healthcare and other service providers); through information technology (the internet and social media) and through personal relationships (parents, friends and partners).

Not all of that sex education is accurate or ‘sex positive’. Consequently, HIV education must include targeted, integrated strategies wherever possible, seeking to speak directly with young gay men but also to others likely to deliver formal or informal sex education to this target group.

Full text of article available at link below –

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