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Teen Girls at Higher Risk for STDs: Report

Improved access to treatment for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis is 'imperative,' expert says

MONDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Teen girls aged 15 to 19 accounted for the largest number (409,531) of the 1.5 million reported chlamydia and gonorrhea cases in the United States in 2008, followed by women aged 20 to 24, according to an annual federal report released Monday.

The researchers also found that black females continue to have a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than any other racial or ethnic group.

Last year, there were about 1.2 million reported cases of chlamydia and nearly 337,000 reported cases of gonorrhea in the United States, according to the Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008, report.

Among the other findings from the report:

  • Gonorrhea rates among blacks were higher than any other racial or ethnic group and 20 times higher than among whites. While blacks represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for about 71 percent of reported gonorrhea cases, 48 percent of chlamydia cases, and 49 percent of syphilis cases.
  • Black females aged 15 to 19 had the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea (10,513 per 100,000 and 2,934 per 100,000, respectively), followed by black women aged 20 to 24 (9,373 per 100,000 and 2,770 per 100,000, respectively).
  • There were 13,500 cases of syphilis in 2008, an increase of nearly 18 percent from 2007. About 63 percent of the cases were among men who have sex with men. However, syphilis rates among women increased 36 percent from 2007 to 2008 (1.1 cases per 100,000 versus 1.5 cases per 100,000), compared with a 15 percent increase among men (6.6 cases per 100,000 versus 7.6 cases per 100,000).

"We cannot ignore the glaring racial disparities in rates of STDs, particularly when we consider the hard truth that gonorrhea rates among African-Americans are 20 times those of whites," Dr. John M. Douglas Jr., director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of STD Prevention, said in a news release.

"Research has shown that socioeconomic barriers to quality health care and higher overall prevalence of STDs within minority communities contribute to this pervasive threat. It is imperative that we improve access to effective STD prevention and treatment services in local communities for those who need them most," he said.

Early testing, diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent long-term health consequences of sexually transmitted diseases. Each year in the United States, untreated STDs lead to complications that cause at least 24,000 women to become infertile, according to the CDC.

Of the almost 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases that occur each year in the United States, almost half are among those aged 15 to 24 years. STDs cost the nation's health-care system as much as $15.9 billion a year, the CDC said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about STDs.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Nov. 16, 2009

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