Survey of Today’s Adolescent Relationships and Transitions
HIV rates for young men, particularly Black and Latino youth, were disproportionately high.
The gay community and society at large recognized that education and prevention methods could stop the transmission of HIV, but less was understood about the HIV knowledge and attitudes of adolescents, especially minority youth. Stigma, homophobia, and discrimination can make men who have sex with men susceptible to physical and mental health problems that interfere with their ability to receive HIV prevention services, testing, and treatment. These barriers to care are especially acute among Black and Latino gay, bisexual, questioning, and transgender youth. They were difficult to reach until NORC found a way to study their attitudes and needs.
NORC developed an innovative social media-based survey of adolescent sexual behavior.
Our work with the Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began with the creation of the Survey of Today’s Adolescent Relationships and Transitions (START). The survey’s target audience consisted of gay, bisexual, and questioning males (13-18 years old) and transgender youth (13-24 years old). We used social media (e.g., Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram) to reach them, and our questions covered:
- Sexual and gender identity, behavior, and attractions
- Access to sex education and other HIV prevention activities
- Knowledge and behavior related to HIV prevention methods
- Parental involvement
In addition, our partners at The Fenway Institute conducted online and in-person focus groups with professionals who work with these youths.
The survey identified critical gaps in HIV prevention care for minority youth.
NORC interviewed over 3,100 sexual and gender minority youth. The data gave DASH and NORC researchers a more detailed understanding of these adolescents’ sexual preferences and behaviors. The results pointed to significant gaps in inclusive, affirming care for adolescent sexual-minority males and transgender youth. More effort was needed to ensure that health care providers discuss gender and sexuality issues with their young patients and educate them about emerging HIV prevention technologies.
The survey confirmed that innovative web technologies, such as social media ads, can efficiently recruit the target audience in a scientifically rigorous way. In a subsequent project, NORC used this data to help develop prevention tools for gay, bisexual, questioning, and transgender youth.