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More Americans Practicing Safe Sex, CDC Reports
Date:1/19/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The number of Americans who practice behaviors that put them at risk for HIV infection has declined significantly, federal health officials reported Thursday.

The ranks of those engaging in a risky sexual or drug-related behavior dropped from 13 percent of men and 11 percent of women in 2002 to 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively, in 2010, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Generally, these are behaviors that are studied in higher risk populations, but by looking in the household population we can get a better sense of the level of risk that may exist in the general population that you don't normally think about," said report author Anjani Chandra, a health scientist at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

Some of the risk factors the researchers looked at were gay and bisexual sex, illicit drug use and having several sexual partners or a partner who injects illegal drugs, she said.

"For women, we don't really see that the decline is due to any variation in sexual risk behaviors, whereas for men we see substantial difference by race," she said.

The reasons for the decline in risk behaviors is not clear, Chandra said. Some of the public health messages might be getting through. It also could be that people are reluctant to disclose that they engage in risky behaviors, she said.

"But, it could be real and reflect actual changes in behavior," she said.

The data in the report was collected on almost 23,000 men and women aged 15 to 44 in households throughout the country and represents 6.5 million men and 4.9 million women.

The decline seems to be due to a drop in risky behaviors such as having unprotected sex and having sex with multiple partners, Chandra said.

There were, however, differences in behaviors in different groups. For example, men who had recently
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