About 11% of Americans Had Multiple Sex Partners within Previous Year, CDC Survey Shows
Americans are reporting risky sexual behaviors, with 11% having multiple sex partners within the previous year and 4.2% reporting other behaviors that put them at high risk for the transmission of HIV and other STDs, according to a 1997 CDC survey published this week in the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The analysis included a total of 33,913 respondents to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone survey of Americans between the ages of 18 and 49 in 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The median prevalence of sexual activity among these adults was 85%, with state-specific prevalence ranging from 69% in Tennessee to 89% in Nevada and Wisconsin. Among the 11% of respondents who reported multiple partners, the median prevalence of condom use at last sex encounter was 65%, with state-specific prevalence ranging from 53% in Rhode Island to 79% in New Jersey. Of the 4.2% who reported risky behaviors, the median prevalence of condom use was 26.6%, compared to 23.2% who did not report risky behaviors. The report said, "These findings underscore the continued need for education about behaviors that place persons at risk for HIV infection, promotion of HIV testing among those who engage in these behaviors, and counseling to reduce risk" (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 4/13). Dr. Amy Lansky, an epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, told Reuters Health, "It's not an insubstantial percentage of people who are at risk -- 4.2%. The good news is that the low percentage suggests that people do know about how to prevent HIV. But what you do have to take into consideration is that there has been a lot of education and information disseminated about HIV -- so in order to keep those levels low, we need to continue that kind of effort." STD prevention strategies include getting tested for HIV, having sex exclusively with an uninfected partner, knowing a partner's HIV status and using condoms if you do not know a partner's HIV status (Patten-Hitt, Reuters Health, 4/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.