Teens, young adults bear disproportionate share of STDs
By The Atlanta Journal-constitution
Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013, 5:42 p.m.
In the heat of the moment, it's a good bet sexually transmitted infections are the last thing on a teenager's or young adult's mind.
Thus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young people ages 15-24, who make up just more than one-quarter of the sexually active population, account for half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted infections that occur in the United States each year.
With this being Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month, officials are emphasizing efforts to educate teens and their parents about the public health issue to slow the spread of diseases among young people.
In addition to providing testing, some localities are leveraging social media to help inform the public about treatments, prevention strategies and the need to get tested.
“It is a sobering reality that so many young people are infected with STDs and even more startling, the number of these young people who aren't even aware of it,” said Dr. Patrick O'Neal, director of health protection at the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Our goal is to reduce incidence of STDs and the disparity in numbers of young people infected, and cutting down sexual transmission of STDs.”
While sexually transmitted infections affect people of all ages, they take a particularly heavy physical toll on young people, said Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention.
This is true especially for young women going through puberty because biological factors make it easier for organisms to enter their reproductive systems.
Although most women will clear infection with medical treatment, some are left with debilitating pelvic pain and are at increased risk of developing ectopic pregnancies.
Among the eight common sexually transmitted infections, she said, the human papillomavirus, or HPV, is by far the most common among teens and young adults.
Though most HPV infections will clear on their own, some will take hold and can lead to serious disease, including cervical cancer.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes and trichomoniasis are also common among the young age group.
Undiagnosed infections cause 24,000 women to become infertile each year, according to the CDC.
“I think we've known for a long time that young people are at greater risk for sexually transmitted disease and the prevalence of infection among them is very high,” Bolan said. “The way we reduce infection is by identifying people as quickly as possible so that they can get treated.”
Bolan said her office is partnering with other public health agencies to raise awareness not only about the impact of infections, but the causes and what teens and young adults can do to protect themselves.
A lack of access to health care, confidentiality concerns, even being too embarrassed to tell anyone — all feed the spread of infections, she said.
Sexually active teens and young adults should be checked periodically for disease, Bolan said. If they suspect they've been infected, they should seek care from their pediatrician or primary care doctor. If they don't know where to go, they can call their local health department.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Obama administration delays decision on Keystone XL pipeline
- Medicaid paid $12M for Illinois dead, audit finds
- Colorado deaths stoke marijuana worries
- Recovery expert believes wreckage of missing plane located
- Grandmother left vengeful note in boys’ slayings, then committed suicide, police say
- SpaceX supply ship makes Easter cargo delivery to space station
- Records exonerate ‘X-Men’ director, attorney says
- Iranian envoy officially blocked by law
- Judge strikes down Minnesota’s anti-coal law as unconstitutional
- Wyatt Earp gun sells for $225K at auction
- Android systems running 4.1.1 softward carry Heartbleed bug