STDs on Rise among Teenage Girls

Article excerpt

CHICAGO -- More than 3 million teenage girls have at least one sexually transmitted disease, and 15% of those have multiple infections, according to the first large study of STDs in this population.

Overall, 26% of 14- to 19-year-olds were infected with at least one STD, according to the population-based study sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black teens had the highest prevalence of disease, with 48% testing positive for at least one of the four most common sexual infections, compared with 20% of white teens, investigators reported in a press briefing during a CDC-sponsored conference on STD prevention.

"For any other disease, we would be calling this an epidemic," said Dr. John M. Douglas Jr., director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention. "These high infection rates among young women, particularly African American women, are clear signs that we must continue developing ways to reach those at most risk. Screening and early treatment can prevent some of the most devastating effects of untreated STDs."

The study's lead author, Dr. Sara Forhan of the CDC, extracted her data from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a continuous annual study that examines a nationally representative sample of U.S. households to assess a broad range of health issues. As part of the 2003-2004 survey, 838 girls aged 14-19 years underwent STD testing for human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, herpes simplex virus, and trichomoniasis. The teens underwent urine and blood testing and provided a self-collected vaginal swab to determine if an infection was present.

The analysis excluded the prevalence of gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV infections, Dr. …