A study in northeastern Ohio suggests that in some parts of the country, promiscuity may not increase the risk of getting AIDS.
A group of doctors studied 320 homosexual men in that part of the country, where acquired immune deficiency syndrome is relatively rare, in an effort to see if certain sexual practices or the number of partners increased a person's risk.
They found that an estimated 24 percent of the men had antibodies to HTLV-III, which is believed to be the AIDS virus. Those with multiple sexual partners were no more likely to have the antibody than those with few partners, they report in a letter to The New England Journal of Medicine.
But those who had engaged in anal intercourse were more likely to carry the antibody, Dr. Leonard H. Calabrese and several colleagues report.
Presence of the antibody indicates exposure to the virus, although only a small percentage of those exposed will contract AIDS, scientists believe.
"In addition, six of the first 10 homosexual men with AIDS . . . reported five or fewer sexual contacts in the preceding two years," the doctors write.
"One possible explanation is that in an area where the virus is not widespread, the risk of infection and subsequent disease may be more a function of the nature of one's sexual contacts than the number," they write.
As of last week, the Centers for Disease Control reported 10,226 cases of AIDS, 5,008 of them resulting in death.