Magazine article Science News

Risky Sex Breeds Neglected Epidemic

Magazine article Science News

Risky Sex Breeds Neglected Epidemic

Article excerpt

The United States has a secret, and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) wants to rouse the nation to do something about it. In a report called "The Hidden Epidemic," IOM says that the United States has failed to respond adequately to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), even though it has the highest rates of infection in the developed world.

Twelve million people in the United States, one-fourth of them adolescents, get STDs each year, according to the report. Several studies show that U.S. rates of infection are 50 to 100 times those of other developed nations, IOM states. For example, 150 of every 100,000 people in the United States have gonorrhea, compared to 3 per 100,000 in Sweden and 18.6 per 100,000 in Canada.

Thousands of people die annually of complications because the United States lacks an "effective national system" for curbing the epidemic, IOM contends.

Only a concerted effort to screen people for STDs, treat them, and educate others about the risks of infection will stem the tide of disease, Helene Gayle of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said last week at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting in New York.

The IOM study found that all levels of government spent just $1 to prevent STDs for every $43 spent on drugs, tests, doctors' fees, and hospitalization. In all, these diseases cost the nation $17 billion a year.

Thirty-two percent of men and women in a 1995 government study could not name any STD other than AIDS. …

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