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Black Teens Having Less Sex Narrow Gap With Whites

The share of U.S. black teenagers who have had sex dropped 22 percentage points in the past two decades, a turn in behavior that brings the group closer in-line with the overall teen sex rate, government data show.

About 60 percent of black high school students surveyed in 2011 reported having had sex, down from 82 percent in 1991, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report released today at the International AIDS Conference in Washington. The sex rate for all teenagers, regardless of race, fell about 7 percentage points to 47 percent.

In addition to the increasing share of black teens who have never had sex, those that are active cite fewer partners than previous generations. The number with four or more sex partners declined to 25 percent from 43 percent, the study shows. The data is being presented at a conference that has partly focused on the HIV rates among black Americans.

“We have seen dramatic decline in sexual risk behaviors among African-American students,” said Laura Kann, a senior scientist at the CDC who helped to write the report, in an interview. While black teens are still more likely to have sex and to have multiple sex partners than whites or Hispanics, there has been “a real narrowing of the gap.”

In 2011, 47 percent of all U.S. teens reported having had sex at least once, compared to 46 percent in 2001 and 54 percent in 1991. Among whites, 44 percent of high school students surveyed in 2011 reported ever having sex, compared to a low of 42 percent in 2003 and 50 percent in 1991.

Condom Use

The study found that condom use has stabilized, the agency said. The share of sexually active students who used a condom the last time they had sex, fell to 60 percent in 2011 after rising to 63 percent in 2003.

The data is also being published in the Atlanta-based agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“The results suggest that progress in reducing some HIV-related risk behaviors among high school students overall and in certain populations has stalled in the past decade,” researchers wrote in weekly report.

While black men and women are 14 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 44 percent of 48,000 new HIV cases in 2009, the latest year available for definitive data, according to the Atlanta-based CDC.

About 4 in 10 of those new cases occur in people under age 30, according to the CDC. Young black gay men have particularly high infection rates.

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