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Fewer than one-quarter of sexually active adolescent boys use condoms, according to a study of teenage males' sexual behavior released last month by researchers at Indiana University.

"Although many of the adolescents had used condoms intermittently, few were consistent users,'' said Dr. Donald P. Orr, a specialist in adolescent medicine at the Indiana University Medical Center who directed the study.

Recent studies have shown that more adolescents are having sex and that the number of AIDS cases among teenagers is on the rise. Half of all teenage girls with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS were infected through heterosexual intercourse, according to the new report.

The study, which surveyed a multiracial group of 116 sexually active males ages 15 to 19, found that they averaged two partners in the 12-month period and had had five partners by age 19.

Of those young men who used condoms, more said they did so to protect themselves from other sexually transmitted diseases than specifically to guard against AIDS or pregnancy, said Dr. Orr.

Healthy eating habits and a consistent exercise regimen sharply reduce blood-cholesterol levels in young children, according to a study released last month.

Cholesterol levels of 3rd and 4th graders in Baltimore schools fell by 7 percent, a drop that "in adults would translate to a decrease in the risk of coronary heart disease by 15 percent,'' the study says.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tracked over 400 students in 12 schools for two years.

The students were taught good nutrition and took regular aerobic-exercise classes.

"We didn't force broccoli down their throats, but we found that when they were exposed to a wide variety of foods, kids generally like the healthier choices just as well as the unhealthier ones,'' said Kerry Stewart, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins who directed the study.

Asthma is the leading cause of school absences among children suffering from chronic illness, resulting in more missed days than diabetes, heart disease, or pneumonia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Students missed 10.1 million school days in 1988 due to asthma, reports a study printed in the December issue of Pediatrics. The study was based on C.D.C. data from over 17,000 households.

A respiratory illness that in some cases can be fatal, asthma has become more common and more severe in the past decade, the study notes. Over 2.7 million children, or 4.3 percent of all those under age 18, suffered from asthma in 1988, up from 3.2 percent in 1981.--J.P.

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