Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. Teens Heed Message on AIDS, Safe Sex

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. Teens Heed Message on AIDS, Safe Sex

Article excerpt

DURBAN, South Africa -- U.S. teenagers are clearly getting the message about AIDS, new data show. Compared with a decade ago, they wait longer to have sex, use condoms and have fewer partners.

The data, released yesterday, are part of a generally encouraging view of the AIDS epidemic in the United States that contrasts with the gloomy picture from much of the rest of the world, especially Africa.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported some upbeat trends, especially falling HIV infection rates among U.S. women.

But at the same time, officials caution that infection rates are unacceptably high among blacks in some Northeastern and Southern cities, and there are worrisome hints that young gay men may be turning away from condom use.

"This is an increasingly complex picture of HIV/AIDS," said the CDC's Ronald Valdiserri. "Balancing our successes is a need to sustain our efforts."

A letup in teenage sexual activity was first noticed by the CDC two years ago. But officials say the latest data, which cover the entire decade, prove that is a clear trend and not merely a statistical blip.

The researchers attributed the change to the widely repeated dual message of sexual abstinence and condom use.

Overall, the CDC estimates that 40,000 new HIV infections occur in the United States each year, and that rate has stayed constant through the '90s. At the epidemic's height in the 1980s, there were 100,000 new infections annually.

Early in the last decade, health officials worried about a possible epidemic of heterosexually spread AIDS among U.S. women, but the latest data show that did not happen. Figures from 25 states show that the number of HIV infections in women actually declined by 9 percent from 1994 to 1998.

But officials caution that even though infections dropped steeply among older women, they actually doubled among those in their early 20s. …

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