One in every four American high school students has had sex with four or more partners and less than half use condoms, placing themselves at great risk for contracting the AIDS virus, a federal AIDS risk survey indicates.
"Actually, what we're finding is that among all American high school students, one in two has already engaged in sexual intercourse by the time they are 16," said Lloyd J. Kolbe, director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health at the federal Centers for Disease Control."One out of every eight ninth-graders has already had four or more sexual partners," Kolbe said. "That figure actually grows so that one out of every four 12th-graders has had four or more sex partners. We're very concerned about these statistics.
"Other data we're concerned about is that one in 70 high school students have injected an illegal drug. That's one of the most efficient ways to transmit the (AIDS) virus," Kolbe said.
The number of cases of AIDS, which is spread primarily by sexual contact and intravenous drug use, increased more than sixfold among 13- to 19-year-olds from 1987 through 1991. AIDS is now the sixth leading cause of death for people ages 15-24, the CDC said.
"Because the median incubation period between infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and onset of AIDS is nearly 10 years, many 20- to 29-year-olds with AIDS may have been infected during adolescence."
The survey was conducted in 1990 by the CDC and involved self-reported data from 11,631 students in grades 9-12 in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Of all students, the median age of first intercourse was 16.1 years for male students and 16.9 years for females. However, about one-third of male students and 20 percent of female students had sexual intercourse before age 15, the CDC reported.
Nineteen percent reported having had four or more sex partners during their lifetime, with male students "significantly more likely" than female students to report having had four or more sex partners. Sixty percent of black male students said they had four or more sex partners.
"Among students who reported sexual intercourse during the three months preceding the survey, 44.9 percent reported that they or their partners had used a condom at last sexual intercourse," the CDC said.
"I think it (the survey) points out how much work we all have to do to reduce these risks among young people," Kolbe said.