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Young Waiting Longer for First Sexual Activity

Study Shows More Than 25% of Teens and Young Adults Have Not Had Sex
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Sexually Transmitted Infections

Researchers say sexual behaviors, attraction, and self-identity vary by age, marital and cohabiting status, education, and race and Hispanic origin. Behaviors are related to birth and pregnancy rates and also to the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including the HIV virus that causes AIDS. About half of 19 million new STIs occur among people ages 15 to 24, according to the CDC.

The agency says African-American teenagers ages 15-19 had the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in 2008, followed by African-American females ages 20-24.

Much of the data for the new report were collected via computer-assisted interviewing, which avoids the necessity of respondents giving answers to a person. Among women ages 15 to 44 in the 2006-2008 period, only 11% said they had never engaged in any form of sexual activity with a male partner.

Other key findings:

  • 6.1% of women in that age group had engaged in sex in their lifetime, but no sexual activity in the past 12 months.
  • 69% had engaged in sex with one male partner in the past year, about 8% two partners, and 5% three or more.
  • Among women 25 to 44, only 1.6% said they had never engaged in any form of sexual activity with a male partner, 6.6% reported having sex with a male, though not in the past year, and 82% reported one partner in the past 12 months.

Researchers say that having one partner in the past year was much more common among older women, presumably because more of these women were married. About 11% of men reported no sexual contact of any kind with a female partner in the past year, 6.6% had no opposite-sex partner in the past year, 63% had engaged in sexual activity with one partner, 8.6% with two, and about 10% with three or more.

The CDC says the new report will be useful for planning programs aimed at preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections and to prevent unintended pregnancies.

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