HEALTH

AIDS Prompting Latinos to Use Condoms

An assortment of condoms is offered for free to visitors of the Statehouse during a World AIDS Day ceremony inside the rotunda at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2004. Some Illinois health workers have said they were disappointed that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has ordered the Illinois Department of Public Health not to buy any more condoms in bright colors or flavors like orange and cherry. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

An assortment of condoms is offered for free to visitors of the Statehouse during a World AIDS Day ceremony inside the rotunda at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2004. Some Illinois health workers have said they were disappointed that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has ordered the Illinois Department of Public Health not to buy any more condoms in bright colors or flavors like orange and cherry. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Latin men use condoms significantly more often than whites, likely because of effective HIV-AIDS awareness program in Hispanic communities, a study released Monday shows.

The study in a special issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine says Hispanic men, which have high AIDS rates, are using condoms at a significantly higher rate than whites.

The finding is one of several made by researchers in what could be the largest, most comprehensive national survey of Americans' sexual behavior since 1994. It offers detailed findings on how often Americans have sex, with whom, and how they respond. In all, 5,865 people, ranging in age from 14 to 94, participated in the survey.

The lead researchers, from Indiana University's Center for Sexual Health Promotion, said the study fills a void that has grown since the last comparable endeavor — the National Health and Social Life Survey — was published 16 years ago. Major changes since then include the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the types of sex education available to young people, the advent of same-sex marriage, and the emergence of the Internet as a tool for social interaction.

Dr. Dennis Fortenberry, a pediatrics professor who was lead author of the study's section about teen sex, said the overall findings of such a huge survey should provide reassurance to Americans who are curious about how their sex lives compare with others.

"Unless, like al-Qaida, you feel there's something abnormal about the American people, what these data say is, 'This is normal — everything in there is normal.'"

Among the findings was a high rate of condom usage among 14- to 17-year-olds. Of the surveyed boys who had sexual intercourse, 79 percent reported using a condom on the most recent occasion, compared to 25 percent for all the men in the survey.

However, the sample for that particular question involved only 57 teens in the 14-to-17 age range. That's far smaller than the thousands involved in latest federal Youth Risk Behavior Survey last year which calculated condom use among sexually active high school students at 61 percent
Fortenberry nonetheless found the new findings encouraging.

"There's been a major shift among young people in the role condoms have in their sexual lives," he said. "Condoms have become normative."
The researchers said they were struck by the variety of ways in which the subjects engaged in sex — 41 different combinations of sexual acts were tallied, encompassing vaginal and anal intercourse, oral sex, and partnered masturbation.

Men are more likely to experience orgasm when vaginal intercourse is involved, while women are more likely to reach orgasm when they engage in variety of acts, including oral sex, said researcher Debra Herbenick, lead author of the section about women's sex lives.

She noted there was a gap in perceptions — 85 percent of the men said their latest sexual partner had an orgasm, while only 64 percent of the women reported having an orgasm in their most recent sexual event.

One-third of women experienced genital pain during their most recent sex, compared to 5 percent of men, said Herbenick, citing this as an area warranting further study.

The AP contributed to this report.