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19% of High-School Students Have Had At Least 4 Sex Partners

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Nearly one in five high-school students have had four or more sex partners, placing them at increased risk of contracting the virus that causes AIDS, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has found.

"The findings in this report and previous reports from the United States and Italy indicate that a substantial proportion of students engage in behaviors that place them at risk for H.I.V. infection,'' the C.D.C. report concludes.

The study, released late last week, found that 19 percent of the students taking part in the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey had had intercourse with at least four different partners. Older students were especially likely to report that many partners; 12 percent of 9th graders, but 28.6 percent of 12th graders, polled said they had had that many partners.

Male students were more than twice as likely as females (12 percent) to report that level of sexual activity. Black male students were the most promiscuous subset of students, with 60.4 percent saying they had had at least four sex partners. Hispanic females were the least likely to report having that many partners.

The study was based on a survey of 11,631 students nationwide. The adolescents were asked about a variety of health behaviors, including drug use, dieting practices, and sexual behavior.

In addition to having multiple partners, many students do not practice "safe sex,'' the survey found. Of the students who reported having had intercourse in the three months before the survey, 45 percent said they had used a condom the last time they had had sex. Forty-nine percent of the boys said they had used a condom, compared with 40 percent of the girls, the survey found.

But students who reported having at least four sex partners were significantly less likely to say they had used a condom, the report found. Only 29 percent of the most sexually active girls said they had used a condom, compared with 44 percent of the less-active girls. Among boys, 45.6 percent of the boys who reported having had at least four partners used a condom, compared with 54.2 percent of those with three or fewer partners.

Over all, 1.5 percent of the students reported intravenous drug use, another risk behavior for the virus that causes AIDS. But 5.1 percent of the students with at least four sex partners said they had used I.V. drugs.

The study found that nearly two-thirds of the male students and more than one-half of the female students had lost their virginity by age 17. About one-third of the males and one-fifth of the females reported becoming sexully active by age 15.--E.F.

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