Why Are Girls So Much More Likely To Get HIV Testing Than Boys?

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
We all know that getting STI testing is important, but it might seem like some of us are taking on more of that responsibility than others. According to a recent data analysis, seven out of the top 10 medical procedures ordered by women aged 21 to 30 involve STIs or reproductive health. For men of the same age, only two out of the top 10 procedures are related to reproductive health.

Collected by health analytics startup Amino, the report breaks down the most common medical procedures by age among 22.4 million patients who had a procedure in 2014. Most of the results were unsurprising. For instance, starting in ages 31 to 40, the most common procedure for women was a mammogram, while the most common procedure for men was a colonoscopy.

More alarming, however: Girls aged 11 to 20 are more than three times as likely to get tested for HIV than boys, the company told R29. According to Amino's data, of the 1.4 million patients in that age group, 108,000 girls (15%) had received HIV testing. However, only 30,000 boys (about 4%) in that age group had gotten the same testing.

Among those patients between 21 and 30, the company found that 388,000 women and 83,000 men got the test.

It's not totally clear why these differences might be happening. But as Jorge Caballero, MD, Amino's head of data, told R29 by email, girls and young women in this group are probably getting tested more often at least partly because it's a routine part of prenatal care. And in 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that's actually the top reason for women between the ages of 15 and 44 to get tested.

Looking at other data from the CDC, that gender difference does seem to even out a bit as we get older: In 2010, 47.7% of women and 41.3% of men aged 18 to 64 said they had ever been tested for HIV. The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested at least once in their lifetimes and more often for those with other risk factors (e.g., having sex with someone whose HIV status you don't know). So looking at the CDC's numbers, one can see that there's still a lot of people, regardless of gender, who need to get tested.

The one spot where both young men and young women seem to be sharing the responsibilities: the HPV vaccine. Although research suggests that the vaccination rate for girls is still far behind where it should be, it's reassuring to see that boys don't seem to be falling even further behind.

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