CDC Reports Decline in High School Sexual Activity
Special Report - August 6, 2008
Sexual risk behaviors among high school students in the United States have decreased significantly since 1991, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report, “Trends in HIV-and STD-Related Risk Behaviors Among High School StudentsUnited States, 1991-2007,” was published in the August 1 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). According to the CDC, the percentage of high school students “who ever had sexual intercourse” decreased between 1991 and 2007, from 54.1 to 47.8 percent. In addition, the percentage of high school students who reported multiple sexual partners (defined as “four or more sexual partners during one’s lifetime”) dropped 20 percent during the same time period. The percentage of high school students who were currently sexually active (defined as “having sexual intercourse during the three months prior to the survey”) declined seven percent between 1991 and 2007.
Despite the overall decline in sexual risk behaviors among high school students since 1991, the CDC reports no significant changes between 2005 and 2007, adding that, “the lack of recent change in the prevalence of HIV- and STD-related risk behaviors among high school students might have contributed to recent increases in related health outcomes.” For example, the estimated annual number of HIV diagnoses among 15 to 19 year-olds increased 34 percent between 2003 and 2006. Gonorrhea rates among this age group have also increased, by two percent between 2004 and 2005, and by six percent between 2005 and 2006, according to the CDC.
Since the mid-1990s, sexual activity among North Carolina high school students has declined as well. According to the CDC’s annual “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance” report, which was released in June, 52.1 percent of North Carolina’s high school students reported ever having sexual intercourse in 2007, down from 57.3 percent in 1995, when the General Assembly passed legislation requiring schools to teach abstinence-until-marriage sex education. In addition, the percentage of high school students in the state to report current sexual activity dropped from 41.0 percent in 1995 to 37.5 percent in 2007 (up slightly from 37.1 percent in 2005). The proportion of North Carolina high school students to report four or more lifetime sexual partners also dropped sharply, from 23.8 percent in 1995 to 16.1 percent in 2007.
“As documented by this latest CDC report, we have seen significant declines in sexual risk behavior among teenagers since the early 1990s, when abstinence education efforts began in America’s public schools,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “If we want to see an this trend continue, we need to stay the course with abstinence education and work even harder to ensure that teens hear the facts about the dangers of early sexual activity, and make sure they receive the tools they need to help them postpone sex until marriage.”
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