Frequent Self-Cutting Increases Chances of Contracting HIV

A study published in the June issue of Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics concludes that teenagers who repeatedly cut themselves are more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behavior, which in turn increases their chances of possibly contracting HIV. According to researchers from the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center in Providence, Rhode Island, teens who have cut themselves more than three times tend to use condoms less frequently, were more likely to share cutting instruments, and has less self-restraint.

Doctor Larry K. Brown, the lead author of this research, said that this study "sheds some much-needed light on the relationship between frequency of self-cutting and sexual risk." He added that the results could prove critical, especially with the rising rates of self-injury among adolescents in the United States.

"Basically, we found that greater frequency seems to imply greater HIV risk, as these teens were more likely to share cutting instruments and participate in other risky activities that can expose them to HIV and other diseases," Dr. Brown said.

Brown, who is also a professor or psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, added that the associations between frequent cutting, sexual risk, and low self-restraint provide clues to the forces that underlie the repeated behavior. "This points us in the right direction for future research to better understand this troubling and self-destructive phenomenon."

The study was conducted on 100 teenagers, with ages between 11 to 18, from intensive psychiatric treatment programs who have a history of cutting. They were asked to answer a series of questionnaires to gauge their self-cutting practices, sexual risk behaviors, and risk attitudes. More than half of them were white, majority of them were female, and none of them reported an HIV infection. Approximately 39 percent of those questioned engaged in frequent cutting, with an average of about 19 cutting episodes per person.

Meanwhile, 68 percent of the teens in the study were sexually active, although just 39 percent of frequent cutters said they used condoms consistently in the past 90 days. Frequent cutters were also four times more likely to share their cutting instruments than other teens.

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