Most U.S. Adults Do Not Engage in Risky Sexual Behavior, Study Says
The majority of adults in the United States do not engage in risky sexual behavior, but those who do tend to use a condom, according to a study in the November issue of the American Journal of Public Health, Reuters Health reports (Reuters Health, 11/13). To assess behavioral risk patterns among U.S. adults, Deborah Holtzman of the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and colleagues examined data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a random telephone survey. They studied the responses of 35,484 participants ages 18 to 49 from 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The researchers analyzed a number of risk behavior indicators, including the number of sexual partners in the past 12 months; use of condom at last intercourse; participants' perceptions of condom effectiveness; and whether a participant had been treated for an STD in the past five years. The researchers also examined participants' actual HIV risk -- determined by use of intravenous drugs, treatment for a STD within the past year, a positive HIV test result or anal intercourse without a condom -- and their perceived HIV risk, which participants judged from no risk to high risk. The study findings included the following:
- Seventy-seven percent of respondents reported having only one sexual partner within the past year. Only 9.2% reported having two or more partners within the past year.
- Eighty-two percent of participants said they had no new partners within the past 12 months, compared to 12% who said they had one new partner and 6% who said they had two or more new partners within the same time period.
- Of those who reported having a sexual partner within the past year, 26% said they used a condom at last intercourse. Of those who used a condom, 54.9% said they used it to protect against pregnancy and STDs, while 8.7% said they used it solely to protect against disease.
- Forty-four percent of participants said that condoms are "very effective" at preventing HIV transmission, while 46.2% of respondents said that condoms are "somewhat effective" at preventing HIV. Nearly 4% of respondents said that condoms are "not at all effective" in preventing HIV transmission.
- Only 4.1% of respondents said they had engaged in any risk behaviors for HIV or had received a positive HIV test result.
- Only 7.7% of participants perceived themselves to be at "medium or high" risk for HIV, while 31% said their risk was "low" and 61.4% said they were at no risk for the disease.
- Respondents who were young, male, black, Hispanic, not married or living with a partner and who had less than a high school education were more likely to be at increased risk for HIV and to perceive themselves at medium to high risk for the virus.
- Respondents who had a higher actual HIV risk and participants with a higher perceived HIV risk were more likely to have had two or more sex partners, more likely to report condom use at last intercourse and more likely to have undergone a voluntary HIV test.