Intervention Groups May Help Lower HIV Risk Among Gay, Bisexual Youth

Approximately 80% of all HIV infections among teens are from the gay and bisexual population.

Research published in AIDS and Behavior show that parents in an intervention group with gay or bisexual sons can employ effective communication tactics, specifically about condoms and HIV, and other parenting behaviors to help keep their children healthy.

The study is the first to show evidence of positive effects in a randomized controlled trial with the parents of gay or bisexual sons, according to the authors. They added that these results are important because approximately 80% of all HIV infections among teens are from the gay and bisexual population. There were very few previous public health interventions seeking to lower the HIV risk among this group, according to the study.

“By focusing on the parents, this study shows we might be able to reduce HIV risk among gay and bisexual male youth,” said David Huebner, professor of Prevention and Community Health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, in a press release. “Parents represent an untapped yet promising resource in preventing HIV infection and improving sexual health among this underserved population.”

The researchers analyzed 61 parents with sons between 14 and 22 years of age who had come out as gay or bisexual at least 1 month earlier.

Half of the parents were assigned to a control group who watched a 35-minute documentary film designed to encourage parents to better understand and accept lesbian, gay, or bisexual children. The other half were enrolled in an online program, Parents and Adolescents Talking about Healthy Sexuality (PATHS), which included videos and instruction for parents about how to improve their communication with a gay or bisexual son about staying healthy and how to engage in other parenting behaviors that can help promote sexual health.

Parents in the intervention arm were given a to-do list and could take a variety of actions with a goal of improving interactions with their children about sexual health. The studies highlight that when parents have more frequent, higher quality conversations about condoms and HIV with their children, they are less likely to engage in sexual behaviors that can put them at risk for HIV.

The researchers provided an example of parents receiving a sexual fact sheet regarding HIV risk and they could send it to their son without comment or could sit down and review it together. The parents were also assigned with educating their sons about condoms, and were able to message them with an instructional video or could demonstrate how to put a condom on a banana. Further, the parents were also taught about the importance of HIV testing and were guided in how to help get an HIV test.

At the start and end of the 3-month study, parents and sons were separately surveyed about how much parents engaged in the conversations and behaviors that the toolkit recommended.

The parents and sons both independently reported that parents in the intervention arm talked more to their sons about sexual health and assisted them in learning how to use condoms properly.

“To our knowledge, this is the first intervention shown to increase parent behaviors supportive of sexual health for gay or bisexual youth,” Huebner said in a press release. “The next step is to demonstrate that these changes in parent behaviors translate into better sexual health outcomes for the sons. We think it has great potential to help reduce the high rates of HIV among this vulnerable population.”

REFERENCE

Parental intervention may help gay/bisexual youth reduce HIV risk. EurekAlert! November 9, 2022. Accessed November 10, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/970443