STD Rates Rising for Nation's Young; Institute Blames the Increases on Failure to Teach Risks of Sex

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The rates of three curable sexually transmitted diseases all rose last year, indicating that the nation is losing ground in that public-health battle.

A record 1 million chlamydia cases were reported in 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday in its annual surveillance report on sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs.

Gonorrhea rates rose for the second year, and the rate for syphilis - which was slated for eradication a few years ago - rose for the sixth year.

The cases are part of an estimated 19 million new sexually transmitted infections that occur each year, almost half of which are contracted by people younger than 24 and which have direct medical costs of about $15 billion a year.

"STDs pose a serious and ongoing health threat to millions of Americans," said Dr. John Munroe Douglas Jr., director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention.

Most of the reported increases are occurring in young women, men who have sex with men, and ethnic- or racial-minority populations, Dr. Douglas said. He and other CDC officials yesterday called for more attention to STDs in public discourse and among health care providers.

"This has been an extraordinarily frustrating problem for those of us at the federal level, as well as folks at state and local health departments," he said.

The American Social Health Association, which focuses on STD prevention, has long offered public information about the three reported STDs, plus those that are not reported, such as genital herpes and human papillomavirus.

Another organization, the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, recently started a free "self-assessment" Web site (www. …