The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a new report on the sexual and reproductive health of people ages 10-24 in the United States. The agency compiled data from its various surveillance and survey systems for the period of 2002-2007 in an attempt to answer questions about how many young people engage in “sexual risk behaviors” and the related health outcomes, and to compare the findings with historical data.
While the report includes a number of details on rates of sexual intercourse, sexual violence, use of contraception, pregnancy, births, abortion, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV/AIDS (all of which are freely available for viewing online), perhaps most interesting are the information on health disparities and changes over time.
In a press release on the report, the CDC notes signs that progress in sexual and reproductive health of young people may have slowed over the report period. They explain:
Among the signs that progress has halted in some areas:
- Teen birth rates increased in 2006 and 2007, following large declines from 1991-2005.
- Rates of AIDS cases among males aged 15-24 years increased during 1997-2006 (AIDS data reflects people with HIV who have already progressed to AIDS.)
- Syphilis cases among teens and young adults aged 15-19 and 20-24 years have increased in both males and females in recent years.
Additionally, a lack of change in the rates of some items isn’t necessarily a positive outcome. For example, the prevalence of dating violence was “stable overall” and did not decrease, as was the prevalence of ever having been physically forced to have sexual intercourse (except among 10th grade males, whose rates declined). Rates of “nonfatal sexual assault injuries” were also “relatively stable.”
The authors also note that “noticeable disparities exist in the sexual and reproductive health of young persons in the United States.” For example:
- Pregnancy rates for female Hispanic and non-Hispanic black adolescents aged 15–19 years are much higher (132.8 and 128.0 per 1,000 population) than their non-Hispanic white peers (45.2 per 1,000 population).
- Non-Hispanic black young persons are more likely to be affected by AIDS.
- In 2006, among young persons aged 10–24 years, rates for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were highest among non-Hispanic blacks for all age groups.
- The southern states tend to have the highest rates of negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes, including early pregnancy and STDs.