9-May-2011 - EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends
routine HIV testing for everyone between the ages of 13-64 as part of their regular medical care, testing rates remain low
among adolescents. However, a new study from the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center suggests teens who are offered
free or low-cost rapid HIV testing are often willing to accept the test.
According to findings published in the May 2011 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, more than half
of all adolescents accepted a free rapid HIV test immediately following an HIV risk assessment survey.
The study included 81 at-risk adolescents between the ages of 15-21. More than half of all
participants were boys, while 34 percent were Latino and 25 percent were African-American. Overall, 53 percent of teens
in the study accepted the free HIV test, with African-American teens more likely to agree to testing compared to Latino
youth (75 percent vs. 39 percent).
"Given that many adolescents are willing to know their HIV status, policies that support
free or low-cost routine testing may ultimately help identify more cases of HIV among teens," said lead author
Rebecca Swenson, Ph.D., a child psychologist with the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center. "Our findings
suggest that widespread routine testing is a viable HIV prevention strategy for this particular age group."
With Latinos a growing segment of the population, researchers say clinicians need to better understand why this group is
less willing to be tested so approaches can be developed to increase test acceptance among Latino teens.
"Making HIV/AIDS education and testing outreach services available to adolescents through school-based health centers
would help to eliminate barriers to accessing health care that many low-income and ethnic minority families face," says
According to Swenson, researchers were also surprised to find that teens with only one sexual partner were nearly five
times more likely to accept testing than their peers with multiple partners, who are at higher HIV risk. "It may be
that teens reporting only partner may have recently become sexually active with their first partner and had been
interested in testing following their first sexual experience," she says.
Alternatively, researchers add it's also possible that teens who feel they are in a monogamous relationship
may have been curious about their HIV status as a precursor to, or consequence of, discontinuing condom use.
"This scenario is likely, given that inconsistent condom use with a serious partner was associated with
a significant increase in test acceptance," notes Swenson. "While it's encouraging that these teens are being
tested, health care workers should continue to promote the use of condoms in monogamous relationships to prevent the
transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy."
The study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center
and Lifespan/Tufts/Brown Center for AIDS Research. Co-authors include Wendy A. Hadley, Ph.D., Christopher Houck, Ph.D., S.
Kwame Dance, B.A., and Larry K. Brown, M.D. from the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center.
The principle research affiliation of Rebecca Swenson, Ph.D., is the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center
(a collaborative effort of Bradley Hospital and Hasbro Children's Hospital, both member hospitals of the Lifespan
health system in Rhode Island), and direct financial and infrastructure support for this project was received
through the Lifespan Office of Research Administration. Swenson also has an academic appointment at The
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
Founded in 1931, Bradley Hospital, located in East Providence, R.I., was the nation's first psychiatric hospital devoted
exclusively for children and adolescents. It remains a nationally recognized center for children's mental health care,
training and research. Bradley Hospital is a member of the Lifespan health system and is a teaching hospital for The
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. For more information, please
Contact: Jessica Collins Grimes