Three quarters of young men in the UK who are gay or bisexual don’t receive any information about same-sex relationships at school, with two thirds going without HIV testing advice. The Huffington Post reports that the research, by the National Aids Trust, coincides with figures which show HIV diagnoses among males aged 15 to 24 who have sex with men have doubled in the past 10 years.
Young men who have sex with men (also known as MSM) are more likely to experience a range of other health issues such as poor mental health and problematic drug and alcohol use, which are associated with HIV transmission risk behaviour.
The survey, which questioned more than 1,000 young MSM, is the largest of its kind ever conducted in the UK and found a third had not received any information on HIV transmission and safer sex during sex and relationships education (SRE) in school.
More than half had experienced homophobic bullying and discrimination, with nearly one in four being bullied at the hands of teachers or another adult at school. Nearly 30% of respondents didn’t know how HIV could be transmitted, with 29% not knowing whether it could be caught through kissing. Almost three quarters of survey respondents (71%) did not know or were not sure that “if you think you have put yourself at risk of getting HIV you can take a drug called PEP, which can prevent HIV infection if taken within 72 hours”.
Commenting on the report, Lord Norman Fowler, former secretary of state for health, said: “We are missing a key opportunity to give our young people the support they need. Much more must be done if the next generation are to have access to the information they need to protect themselves from HIV and to end the health inequalities they currently face.”