By James B. Kelleher
(Reuters) - Safe sex may be catching on with teens.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday that condom use by teenagers is on the rise even though overall teen sexual activity remains unchanged.
The CDC said that eight in 10 teen males ages 15-19 surveyed as part of its National Survey of Family Growth reported they had used condoms during their first sexual experience.
That is up 9 percentage points from 2002, the last time the data was collected.
The authors of the report did not explain why condom use has jumped. But they said the rise was consistent with other trends they've seen in recent years, including a decline in teen pregnancies.
While condom use among males has spiked, the use of "other methods" of birth control, including withdrawal and sterilization, has fallen among teen boys' partners, the CDC said.
The CDC also found a significant increase in the percentage of female teens using hormonal methods other than the pill, such as injectables and contraceptive patches, to prevent pregnancy.
Six percent of teen females in the latest survey said they used a non-pill hormonal method at their first sexual experience, up from 2 percent in 2002.
CDC researchers interviewed 2,284 teen girls and 2,378 teen boys -- the largest sample of teenagers undertaken as part of their ongoing National Survey of Family Growth.
Teenagers' overall use of contraceptives has changed little since 2002, the CDC said. One exception was the number of teens who said they were employing a two-pronged approach to pregnancy control, combining the use of a condom with birth control pills or other hormonal contraceptives.
The study found that 16 percent of teen males used a condom in combination with a female partner's hormonal method, up from 10 percent in 2002.
About 43 percent of never-married female teens it surveyed, and about 42 percent of never-married male teens, reported they were sexually experienced, similar to 2002.
When CDC researchers asked teens who have not had sex why they were abstaining, the primary reason given was that it was "against religion or morals," not because they were worried about unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.
Overall, sexual activity among U.S. teenagers seems to be holding steady, the CDC said.
Of those teens who said they were sexually active, 78 percent of females and 85 percent of males said they employed some form of contraception during their first sexual experience, virtually unchanged from 2002.
(Editing by Jerry Norton)