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New CDC Reports Shed Light on Teen Sexual Behavior

Sep 05, 2012

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Starting a new school year can trigger all sorts of anxieties for high school students, especially teens who are just starting out. Getting to gym class, learning a new locker combination, dealing with potential bullies – these are all common concerns for students. Another is handling the responsibility of sexual relationships.

We may not want to think about our children’s sexuality, but the teen years are a time for learning and experimentation.

Here are some statistics reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in July 2012. They apply to private and public school students in grades 9 – 12 in 2011 and were compiled from the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey:

34% were sexually active, meaning they had had intercourse during the past three months

47% had ever had sex.

15% had had multiple (more than four) lifetime partners.

60% used condoms during their last sexual experience.

The CDC study presents some good news. For example, in 1991, only 46% of high school students reported using condoms during their last sex. Twenty years later, this rate has risen to 60%. That’s good progress.

Also encouraging is the decline in high school students who have ever had sex. This number was 54% in 1991 and has fallen to 47%.

However, the CDC report also shares some troubling news:

22% of high school students used drugs or alcohol before their last sexual intercourse in 2011.

13% used no contraception.

84% learned about AIDS or HIV infection in school. While this may seem like a high rate, it’s a decline from the high of 92% in 1997.

So while there are reasons to celebrate, there are also reasons for concern. For instance, the increase in students using condoms is encouraging. But it still means that 40% of students are not using condoms, thus raising their risk of contracting and spreading HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections. According to the CDC, four out of every 10 new HIV infections happen to people under 30. And about half of the 19 million STDs that are diagnosed annually in the United States occur in people under 25.

In a CDC press release, Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention said, “Risk behavior remains far too high among all students, and it’s clear that to realize our goal of an AIDS-free generation, parents, schools, and communities will need to intensify efforts to ensure that every young person in America knows about HIV and how to prevent infection.”

What can we do - as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and community members – to make sure teens get the information they need? That’s a huge question with many answers. Below, we offer a selection of past SexHealthMatters blog posts and news items that can help get you started:

Helping Male Teens Catch Up on Sex Health Awareness. Do teen girls learn more about sex and reproduction than boys? It seems so. This post offers a list of questions that boys may have about sexuality.

Sex Education and Teen Birthrates. Many teens get sex education at school, but there are other factors, such as political and religious views, that may influence their decision to use birth control.

Real Education for Healthy Youth Act. Proposed legislation outlines a plan to use federal funding to expand comprehensive sex education.

Taking Stock on World AIDS Day. This post commemorates the last World AIDS Day, December 1, 2011. It also gives some background on AIDS, information on the status of AIDS around the world and in the United States, and tips for prevention.

HPV Vaccines in the News. Questions and answers about human papillomavirus (HPV), the HPV vaccines available for girls and boys, and the types of HPV these vaccines protect against.

AAP Recommends HPV Vaccine for Boys. It’s often thought that the HPV vaccines are only for girls, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that both girls and boys get vaccinated.

Discussing Sex With Adolescents. We offer tips on having that important conversation – or series of conversations.

STDs and Safe Sex. Talking to a partner about STDs may sound awkward, especially to teens. Here are some guidelines for the conversation and reasons why it’s important.

Condom Use Errors. Encouraging condom use means encouraging correct condom use. Here are some errors to avoid for safer sex.

Teenagers and Sexting. Teenagers may not be sexting – using mobile devices to transmit sexually-explicit content – as much as previously thought, but the practice is still a concern.

What do you think? What will your teenager be learning about sex this school year? Feel free to leave us a comment below.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“Dramatic Decline in Sexual Risks among Black Youth since 1991 – But progress among students overall plateaued in last decade”
(Press release. July 24, 2012)
http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/2012/IAC-YRBS-PressRelease.html
 

“HIV-Related Risk among U.S. High School Students”
(Fact sheet. July 2012)
http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/2012/YRBS-Fact-Sheet-072312-508.pdf

“Trends in the Prevalence of Sexual Behaviors and HIV Testing National YRBS: 1991-2011”
(Chart to 2011)
http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/pdf/us_sexual_trend_yrbs.pdf

Washington Post
Sun, Lena H.
“Good news, bad news about teen sex behavior and HIV”
(July 24, 2011)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/good-news-bad-news-about-teen-sex-behavior-and-hiv/2012/07/24/gJQApTrc7W_story.html