September #39 : Say What - by Gabi Horn

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Table of Contents

Talking 'Bout Their Generation

Youth to Youth

Bargaining Power

Growing Up in Public

Liver Worst

Family Tree

Blood Lines


To the Editor

And on the 7th Day...

In the Sack

Vertex Vortex

Pump and Grind

Baby Gap

You Can’t Touch This

Aloe Can You Go?

Death by Bureaucracy

Bubonic Tonic

Say What

Say What

All Apologies

Plenty of Nothing

Rough Cuts

POZ Picks

Spin and Needles

No Miss Manners

HIV Confidential

Making a Scene


Presidential Nemesis

Are the Kids Alright?

Kid Gloves

Prime-Time Lives

Don’t Make Me Over

Confessions of a Jerk

Life Lessons

Quality Time

Valuable Kitchen Tool

Better Safe Than Sushi

The Heart of the Matter

To C or Not to C

The Circle Game

Youth on Drugs


Making the Grade

Finger on the Pulses

Fountain of Youth

Where to find it

Reality Check


Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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September 1998

Say What

by Gabi Horn

Techno teens come clean

A study in May’s Science showed that pen-and-paper queries have gone the way of Catholic confessionals as reliable measurements of teen behavior.

The National Institutes of Health electronically quizzed 1,729 African-American, Caucasian and Latino boys nationwide, ages 15 to 19, on such touchy topics as homosexuality and intravenous drug use. Questions were fed through headphones and respondents punched in numbered keys to answer. The technique was meant to eliminate the literacy problems that have marred previous teen studies.

Judging by what they keyed in, American boys engage in much riskier behavior than previously believed, and are more at ease ’fessing up to a computer than to a person. Typing teens were almost four times as likely to report male-male sex than those filling out paper questionnaires. Also, reports of injection drug use tripled with the new techno system.

The jump in admitting behaviors that might foster unsafe sex shocked the survey’s lead author, Charles Turner of Washington, DC’s Research Triangle Institute, who said, “We have always known written surveys don’t reflect reality. But nobody thought the discrepancy was this large.” How the findings will filter into HIV prevention has yet to be determined, but Turner called the method a research coup: “Better tools provide better data, and better data provides better programs.”

Clinical psychologist Walt Odets called the quest for numbers misguided. “Honing down the data to percentage points isn’t a prevention tool. We know boys are exposing themselves to HIV. What difference does it make if it’s 49 percent or 60 percent? There’s this idea that if we get the figures a little more accurate, we’d get closer to the ‘truth.’ But the notion that prevention is done scientifically is a masquerade.”  

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