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News - March 1996

High HIV rate found in young gays, bisexuals; study finds risky behavior

A survey of six United States urban areas is finding high rates of HIV infection and risky sexual behavior among young gay and bisexual men, investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the San Jose Mercury News.

The study, which sent teams of public health workers into the streets, bars, clubs and coffeehouses in search of men between the ages of 15 and 22, found that 5 percent to 9 percent of them were already infected with the virus that causes AIDS, according to a story by Staff Writer Glennda Chui.

A comparison to older high-risk groups may not be valid because the number of HIV infections accumulates over the years. And researchers don't know if the situation among the younger men is getting worse because no one studied them until the early '90s.

CDC epidemiologist Linda Valleroy said it was a clear indication that prevention programs were not reaching the right audience.

"We need to figure out ways to make them listen," Valleroy said.

The survey found 38 percent of the men studied said they had had unprotected anal intercourse within the previous six months.

She said the survey is continuing and the results are preliminary, based on interviews and blood tests of 1,781 young men. Nonetheless, "What we're finding is disturbing," she told a news conference at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Baltimore.

The CDC survey is being conducted in six urban areas: three in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami. A seventh area, the city of Baltimore, will be added soon.

Valleroy said the survey was prompted by a study three years ago in San Francisco and Berkeley that found a high rate of HIV infection, 9 percent, among young men who sleep with men. Until then, she said, few people had studied the spread of the virus among this group.

A recent study by Philip S. Rosenberg of the National Cancer Institute indicated that the rate of infection due to homosexual activity is falling. Still, this is the leading cause of infection among young men ages 18 to 25.


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