Decreasing trends in HIV- and STD-related behavior among high school students

August 8, 2008

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed data from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) administered between 1991 and 2007 and found a 12% decrease in US high school students who have had sexual intercourse. The percentage of students that are currently sexually active is down 7%, the report showed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed data from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) administered between 1991 and 2007 and found a 12% decrease in US high school students who have had sexual intercourse. The percentage of students that are currently sexually active is down 7%, the report showed.

The analysis also indicates that those who have had intercourse with four or more persons throughout their life decreased by 20%, and that condom use improved 33%. However, it was also found that no change was found in the occurrence of sexual risk behaviors between 1991 and 2007, with many students still taking part in activities that put them at risk for STDS or HIV.

As a component of the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, the YRBS uses independent, three-part cluster samples of the 1991-2007 surveys to obtain representative data of students in grades 9-12 in public and private high schools nationwide, with sample sizes ranging from 10,904, to 16,296. Each student section completed the same anonymous questionnaires. Response rates from the self-administered surveys ranged from 70% to 81% for the schools, and ranged from 83% to 90% from students, with the overall range being 60% to 70%.

For the YRBS, four behaviors were looked at during the course of the survey by researchers: intercourse at all, number of partners lifetime, number of partners in the last three months, condom use during last sexual encounter, and needle drug use.

The Healthy People 2010 national health objective is to increase the proportion of adolescents in grades 9-12 to either abstain from sexual intercourse or to use condoms if sexually active to 95%. The CDC found that in 2007, 87% of high school students reported to abstaining or using condoms, compared to 80% in 1991.

However, the report also shows that if the goal of 95% abstention/condom use is to be met, then the CDC must focus their attention on black, Hispanic, and male students, not all high school students. Among black students the prevalence of sexual experience and multiple partners remained higher than any other group, and did not decrease during 2001-2007; furthermore, condom use did not increase between 1999 and 2007. For Hispanic students, there was no change in any of the measured sexual activity between 1991 and 2007.

Full YRBS data can be obtained here.