Purpose To examine self-reported characteristics and risk behaviors of adolescents offered free HIV testing in a community setting in order to increase our understanding of this population and to design effective outreach activities targeting high-risk youth.
Methods Adolescents age 14-24 were offered free Orasure HIV tests at community events and given the option of completing a survey to provide demographic information and self-reported risk behaviors including past sexual behavior and drug and alcohol use. Participants who responded positively to the practice of oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse were defined as sexually active.
Results Among the 172 participants, 59% reported one or more types of sexual intercourse and 37% reported past drug or alcohol use. Eighty percent of the participants were African American and the mean age was 17.63 years. The mean percentage of sexually active 14-17 year olds was 55%, which was higher than the mean percentage of sexually active 18-21 year olds (52%). In the univariate analysis, age, African American race, lifetime drug use, tobacco use, alcohol use, and marijuana use were found to be significant predictors of sexual activity. In the multivariate models, African American race, lifetime drug use, tobacco use, and alcohol use were each found to be significant predictors of sexual activity. Forty-five percent of sexually active females reported previous drug use. Sexually active drug users were less likely to be African American.
Conclusions Our findings indicate that free community HIV testing effectively reaches sexually active teenagers and can increase HIV testing among high-risk youth. The high percentage of sexually active 14-17 year olds indicates that we accessed a high-risk group of adolescents. Although sexual activity was positively correlated with high-risk sexual behaviors and with drug and alcohol use, our study also shows that many sexually active adolescents, especially African American females, are not drug users.
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