More Black Teenagers Practicing Safe Sex

Article excerpt

Byline: Lena H. Sun The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- Dramatically fewer black high school students are taking part in sexual behavior that puts them at risk for contracting HIV than they were 20 years ago. However, those students still engage in risky behavior more often than their white and Hispanic counterparts.

Meanwhile, teens overall continue to engage in risky behaviors at rates that have declined only slightly over the past two decades, according to an analysis released by U.S. government researchers.

More specifically, 46 percent of U.S. high school students in 2011 reported ever having sex, compared with 54 percent in 1991. The percentage of students reporting having had four or more sex partners was 14 percent in 2011, down from 19 percent 20 years earlier. The rates in both categories for Hispanic students barely changed over two decades.

"The overall plateau (among all students) is troubling," said Laura Kann, senior scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Four of every 10 new HIV infections occur in people younger than 30, according to the CDC. So reducing risky sexual behavior during teenage years is key. The average age when teens begin to have sex is 16, researchers said.

The findings come from the government's long-standing survey of high school students' health, which includes sexual behavior. The data do not include information on family income and education, which are known to influence risky behavior in teenagers. But researchers said one possible reason for the encouraging news about black high school students could be investments in sexual education and HIV prevention efforts in schools. …