File under: You get what you ask for. Throughout the 1990s, public health researchers saw sharp increases in the number of youth who used condoms when they had sex. But from 2003 forward, as sexual health was consumed by bitter fights over adequate sex ed and access to condoms, that progress halted—and among black teens, it began reversing, according to a study released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC study, between 1991 and 2003, the share of high schoolers who reported using condoms the last time they got frisky climbed steadily, from 46 percent to 63 percent. Among black youth, who have reported the highest rates of condom use since at least 1991, the condom-use rate had climbed to 70 percent by 1999.
But in 2003, the trend line started moving in the opposite direction. Among African Americans, the condom-use rate has fallen most sharply, to 65 percent in 2011.
Notably, the study shows that throughout the 1990s youth in all racial and ethnic groups also steadily reported having less sex altogether—with more people abstaining and/or having fewer sex partners. From 2003 forward, that plateaued as well.
Again, the results were most significant among black youth. While African American teens had long reported higher condom-use rates, they also had long reported more overall sexual activity. CDC researchers noted in this morning’s study that from 1991 through the early 2000s, that gap closed—or, black youth reported having a lot less sex, bringing them closer to the rates of their peers in other racial and ethnic groups. But from the early 2000s forward, the trend line stopped moving.
The study is part of an ongoing, biannual survey of high school students around the country, in which public health researchers ask them about a range of behaviors—including, but not limited to sex. It was released this morning at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. The gathering draws thousands of scientists, activists and political leaders from around the world to discuss the latest in global effort to end the AIDS epidemic. This is the first time the event has been held in the U.S. for decades, because President Obama lifted a long-standing ban on people living with HIV entering the country.