By Rebecca Bowers

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reflects a drop in the percentage of high school students who indicate that they have ever had sex. The number of high school students indicating they had ever had sex fell from 47.8% in 2007 to 39.5% in 2017.

  • A similar drop was seen in the number of students who reported four or more sexual partners, with numbers declining from 14.9% in 2007 to 9.7% in 2017. The decreases in both categories were the lowest levels since the CDC survey began in 1991.
  • Of the nearly 30% of students nationwide who currently are sexually active, 53.8% said that they or their partner had used a condom during last sexual intercourse. While the percentage of teens who used condoms fell from 2007’s 61.5% level, condoms remain the most-used contraceptive method by adolescents.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reflects a drop in the percentage of high school students who indicate that they have ever had sex.1

The report, compiled from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a CDC survey designed to monitor health-risk behavior in youth and young adults, shows that the number of high school students indicating they had ever had sex fell from 47.8% in 2007 to 39.5% in 2017. A similar drop was seen in the number of students who reported four or more sexual partners, with numbers declining from 14.9% in 2007 to 9.7% in 2017.1 The decreases in both categories were the lowest levels since the CDC survey began in 1991.

“The health of our youth reflects the nation’s well-being,” said Robert Redfield, MD, CDC Director, upon release of the new analysis. “In the past decade, there have been substantial improvements in the behaviors that put students most at risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. However, we can’t yet declare success when so many young people are getting HIV and STDs, and experiencing disturbingly high rates of substance use, violence, and suicide.”

Check Method Use

Adolescents represent a significant segment of family planning clinicians’ patient population. According to a 2016 report from the Guttmacher Institute, about 1 million young women ages 15-19 sought publicly funded contraceptive services in 2014.2

Of the nearly 30% of students nationwide who currently are sexually active, 53.8% said that they or their partner had used a condom during last sexual intercourse. Although the percentage of teens who used condoms fell from 2007’s 61.5% level, condoms remain the most-used contraceptive method by adolescents.1 The 2017 figures show that using a condom during last sexual intercourse was more prevalent among students who were male (61.3%) than female (46.9%), and more prevalent among students who were white males (61.9%), black males (57.9%), and Hispanic males (62.4%) than among those who were white females (47.0%), black females (45.8%), and Hispanic females (47.1%).1

The 2017 survey also provides a snapshot of other types of contraceptive use. Of the 28.7% of students nationwide who currently are sexually active, 20.7% said that they or their partner had used oral contraceptive pills for protection before last sexual intercourse.1 Less than 5% (4.1%) said that they or their partner had used an intrauterine device or implant for pregnancy prevention, while a similar percentage (4.7%) reported relying on the contraceptive shot or patch.1

Of students who identified themselves as currently sexually active, 13.8% indicated that neither they nor their partner had used any method of pregnancy prevention during last sexual intercourse.1

Adolescents are at risk for HIV as well; in 2016, people 13 to 24 years of age represented 21% of all newly diagnosed cases of HIV in the United States. More than 80% of the newly diagnosed cases were found in young gay and bisexual men, with young black/African American and Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men particularly affected.3

In the 2017 survey, 9.3% of students nationwide reported ever being tested for HIV, not including tests conducted when donating blood. The analysis shows that the prevalence of ever being tested for HIV was increased among female (10.5%) compared to male (8.1%) students, and was greater among Hispanic female (10.1%) than Hispanic male (7.7%) students. In addition, the prevalence was greater among students who were 12th-grade females (15.8%) than 12th-grade males (10.2%). The prevalence of ever being tested for HIV was increased among black (15.2%) compared to white (7.9%) and Hispanic (8.9%) students, and was greater among black female (16.6%) than white female (8.8%) and Hispanic female (10.1%) students. It was also greater among black male (13.7%) compared to white male (6.9%) and Hispanic male (7.7%) students.1

In looking at responses concerning the sex of sexual contacts, results indicate that students who had ever received testing for HIV included 13.2% of those students who had sexual contact only with opposite-sex partners, 20.2% of students who had sexual contact only with same-sex partners or with both sexes, and 3.6% of students who did not have any sexual contact.

Ask the Questions

Be ready to discuss intimate partner violence with adolescent patients. According to the latest survey, one in 10 female students and one in 28 male students indicated that they had been physically forced to have sex.1

A report from the CDC found that among people who were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, about 25% of females and 14% of males indicated that they first experienced violence of some type from that partner before the age of 18.4

“Today’s youth are making better decisions about their health than just a decade ago,” said Jonathan Mermin, MD, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “But, some experiences, such as physical and sexual violence, are outside their control and continue at painfully high levels. Their experiences today have powerful implications for their lives tomorrow.”

REFERENCES

  1. Kann L, McManus T, Harris WA, et al. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2017. MMWR Surveill Summ 2018;67:1-114.
  2. Frost JJ, Frohwirth LF, Zolna MR. Contraceptive needs and services, 2014 update. Guttmacher Institute; 2016. Available at: https://bit.ly/2zXSnWb. Accessed July 20, 2018.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Among Youth. Fact sheet. Available at: https://bit.ly/2kbvQN3. Accessed July 20, 2018.
  4. Breiding MJ, Smith SG, Basile KC, et al. Prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victimization — National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011. MMWR Surveill Summ 2014;63:1-18.