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Sixty Percent of Heterosexuals and One-third of Gays Have Never Been Tested for HIV
  New York Times
November 25, 2003
HIV Update
Volume 4, Number 52

Six out of ten (59 percent) heterosexual adults and a third (35 percent) of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) adults report that they have never been tested for the HIV.
At a time when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports HIV infection on the rise in youth and young adults in the United States, two-thirds (67 percent) of young adults ages 18 to 24 responded they have never received an HIV test. However, 58 percent of African Americans and 45 percent of Hispanics-- both populations disproportionately affected by HIV-- indicate they have been tested for HIV at least once, compared to only one-third of white Americans.
These are highlights from a nationwide Witeck-Combs Communications/Harris Interactive study of 2,056 adults of whom approximately seven percent (7 percent) self-identified as GLBT. The survey was conducted online between October 21 and 27, 2003 by Harris Interactive(R), a worldwide market research and consulting firm, in conjunction with Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc., a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm with special expertise in the GLBT market and on health and disability issues.
One disturbing finding is that eight out of 10 (80 percent) heterosexual adults say the number one reason for not being tested for HIV is that they do not consider themselves at risk for HIV, an indication that more HIV prevention education is needed for heterosexual Americans.
Darin Johnson, vice president for Witeck-Combs Communications noted "We found that complacency about HIV risk continues to be widespread among all populations and demographics."
"It is particularly alarming that 22 years into the AIDS epidemic, we are still faced with fundamental misunderstandings about HIV,” said Ana Oliveira, executive director of Gay Men's Health Crisis. "Eighty percent of heterosexuals are not getting tested because AIDS is still considered by many to be a 'gay' disease."
Some other key findings from this survey include:
  • A significant majority of heterosexual and GLBT respondents say their health care provider did not discuss HIV testing and/or prevention with them during their last medical appointment. Only 3 percent of heterosexuals vs. 12 percent of GLBT said their provider discussed HIV testing, while 2 percent of heterosexuals vs. 10 percent of GLBT said their provider discussed HIV prevention.
  • The most common response among those who have been tested, when asked where they had been tested last for HIV, was a health care provider's office (34 percent GLBT vs. 39 percent heterosexual), followed by a hospital (21 percent GLBT vs. 16 percent heterosexual). Other testing sites include a community health center (12 percent GLBT vs. 8 percent heterosexual), public health department (7 percent GLBT vs. 5 percent heterosexual), or the workplace (4 percent GLBT vs. 7 percent heterosexual).
  • Of those who have been tested for HIV, GLBT adults are less likely to learn the results of their test compared to heterosexual adults (79 percent GLBT vs. 90 percent heterosexual).
  • Engaging in risky behavior (45 percent) and entering into a new intimate relationship (44 percent) were the top reasons reported by GLBT respondents for getting tested for HIV. Overall, 43 percent of heterosexuals and 49 percent of African Americans surveyed said their top reason for getting tested was that it was offered by their health care provider as part of a routine visit.
  • The rapid-response HIV test, which produces test results in less than 20 minutes, was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in clinical settings. Only 19 percent of GLBT and 5 percent of heterosexual respondents said they were extremely or very likely to get a rapid-response HIV test during their next visit with their health care provider now that such tests are available.
  • GLBT (84 percent) and heterosexual (73 percent) respondents agreed that people living with HIV or AIDS are often discriminated against because of their condition.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive between October 21, 2003 and October 27, 2003, among a nationwide cross section of 2,056 adults (ages 18+). Of those adults surveyed, approximately seven percent (7 percent), self-identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT). Figures for age, sex, race, education and number of adults in the household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.
In theory, with a probability sample of this size (for the total sample), one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus two percentage points of what they would be if the entire adult population had been polled with complete accuracy. Statistical precision is +/-10 percentage points for the GLBT sample.
[Harris Interactive; Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc., 11/25/03]
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