Fewer Americans are engaging in unsafe sexual behaviors – including having unprotected sex and multiple partners – that put them at risk for HIV infection, according to a new federal health report.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a significant drop in the number of people who said they engage in risky sex practices -- from 13 percent of men and 11 percent of women in 2002 to 10 percent and 8 percent from 2006-2010.
Among the risk factors researchers examined: gay and bisexual sex, illicit drug use, having multiple partners or having sex with people who inject illegal drugs.
Federal health officials said the findings suggest public health campaigns promoting condom use and safer-sex practices might be having an impact: “This decline appears to be due to a decrease in sexual risk behaviors reported in 2006–2010,” they wrote.
But they acknowledged they could partly be the result of some individuals being too embarrassed to tell the truth about risky behaviors.
The report was based on surveys of about 23,000 men and women aged 15 to 44.
Among the findings:
• Prison inmates were more likely to report engaging in one or more HIV risk behaviors, than the general population.
• Sixteen percent of young black men reported at least one risky sexual behavior, compared with 8.7 percent of Hispanic men and 6.5 percent of white men.
• Poorer men were also more likely to engage in risky behaviors.
More than 1.2 million Americans living with HIV, according to the most recent complete estimates tallied in 2008, according to the CDC. About one in five people with HIV are undiagnosed and unaware of their HIV status.
“The year 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the first diagnosed case of HIV, and it remains important to understand and measure behaviors associated with risk for acquiring HIV,” CDC said in its report.