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New STD Cases High Among Young People

( - February 25, 2004) A new study estimates that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are skyrocketing in young people between the ages of 15-24, accounting for half of all STD cases.

Three sexually transmitted diseases - human papillomavirus (HPV), trichomoniasis and chlamydia - represent nine in 10 new STD infections among 15-24-year-olds. The health impact of all three can be dramatically reduced with early detection and treatment.

The vast majority of HPV cases are harmless and resolve on their own. Some strains of HPV lead to genital warts, which can be removed, and other strains occasionally develop into a persistent infection that can progress to cervical cancer if left untreated, usually over the course of decades. Cervical cancer, however, is rare in the United States because of the widespread availability of Pap tests, which can detect not only early-stage cervical cancer but also precancerous cervical abnormalities. Both trichomoniasis and chlamydia are easily treatable with antibiotics.

Research findings were based on an analysis of statistics froms everal sources, including the CDC. The findings are outlined in several reports including: January/February 2004 issue of Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health, "Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among American Youth: Incidence and Prevalence Estimates, 2000," by Hillard Weinstock of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) et al., and "The Estimated Direct Medical Cost of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among American Youth, 2000," by Harrell Chesson et al. of the CDC, estimate the scope and economic impact of new STD infections among young people in the United States.

"It is not surprising that teens and young adults contract a disproportionate number of infections," said Sharon Camp of The Alan Guttmacher Institute, which funded the study. "Most young people are sexually active, and many are ill equipped to prevent STDs or seek testing and treatment."

The news is resulting in a call for better educating youth about STDs.

"With STDs, the stakes are just too high to talk only about abstinence,” says James Wagoner, President of Advocates for Youth. “Over 27 million people between the ages of 15-24 have had sex, and they need all the facts—including medically accurate information on condoms—to protect their health.”

The American Social Health Association (ASHA) is also calling for a renewed focus on STD education to sexually active youth -- one that goes beyond preaching abstinence only.

“These findings disturb me on many levels,” says James R. Allen, MD, MPH, ASHA’s President & CEO. “As a grandparent, a pediatrician, and the head of a national public health organization, I am concerned about our failure as a nation to do all that we can to protect the health of our children and young adults. Abstinence is an important public health message, but it cannot be the only message.”

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