Bacterial sexually transmitted infections in gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents: medical and public health perspectives

Paul A S Benson, Albert C Hergenroeder
Seminars in Pediatric Infectious Diseases 2005, 16 (3): 181-91
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents, like all adolescents who engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, are at elevated risk for acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Personal sexual risk factors and issues related to access to care complicate the lives of youth who engage in same-gender sexual activity and who may or may not self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Whereas epidemiologic rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis generally have trended downward in adolescents as a whole during the past 15 years, rates for these common reportable bacterial STIs have increased overall during recent years among men who have sex with men. This article focuses on bacterial STIs in youth with same-gender sexual activity. An understanding of trends among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth remains incomplete, given the absence of consistent and uniform mechanisms for collecting data on sexual behaviors in adolescents and difficulties in associating these behaviors with reportable STIs. Special attention should be given to the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of bacterial STIs in those who engage in same-sex behavior, as new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been made available. It is critical that healthcare providers who work with adolescents be aware of the assortment of specific healthcare needs of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth and address them appropriately in the clinical setting. Medical providers may be one of few true advocates for this often-marginalized adolescent population and have the power to have a positive influence on health promotion and education efforts.

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