Teens Who Use Crack or Cocaine At Higher Risk For HIV

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Discussion of alcohol and marijuana use are routinely part of teen HIV prevention programs, but a new study suggests that a history of crack or cocaine use has more of an influence on risky sexual behavior.

The Study

Study participants were teens involved in a therapeutic psychiatric day program; approximately 13% of the teens reported using crack or cocaine at least once. When asked about condom use, 47% of teens with a history of crack or cocaine use reported using condoms "always or almost always" compared with 71% of teens who had never used the drugs.

Why Is This Important?

An associated between crack and cocaine use and HIV risk behaviors has been demonstrated in adults, but this is the first study to look at the link in adolescents. As lead author Marina Tolou-Shams explained, ""Unprotected sex is the most common way that HIV is transmitted among teens, so if we can develop a clearer picture of why some kids engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, we will be better prepared to educate them about safe sex."

Looking at teens with psychiatric disorders was also an important choice, as adolescents in psychiatric treatment are more likely to abuse drugs and engage in risky sexual behavior.

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