CDC Releases New STD Survey
Special Report - November 19, 2009
Adolescent girls (ages 15 to 19) accounted for the largest number of reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrheathe two most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United Statesin 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Released November 16, the CDC report, “Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008,” tracks reported cases of three common STDschlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Overall, there are approximately 19 million new STD cases every year in the U.S., according to the CDC, costing the U.S. health care system an estimated $15.9 billion a year.
Of the 1.5 million cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea reported to the CDC in 2008, 15 to 19 year-old girls accounted for a total of 409,531 cases. The CDC reports that 20 to 25 year-old women accounted for the second largest number of cases. “While adolescent males have a similar prevalence of STDs, biological differences place females at greater risk for STDs than males,” the CDC states in a press release. “Additionally, the health consequences are more severe among females than males for chlamydia and gonorrhea...”
Because there are often no symptoms for these STDs, the CDC estimates that half of new gonorrhea cases and more than half of new Chlamydia cases are unreported and undiagnosed. If they are not treated, the CDC estimates that 10 to 20 percent of gonorrhea and Chlamydia infections in women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause infertility. The CDC reports that untreated STDs cause an estimated 24,000 women to become infertile every year.
African Americans continue to be “more disproportionately affected by STDs than any other racial or ethic group,” according to the CDC. For example, the report shows that gonorrhea rates are higher among African Americans than for any other racial or ethnic group, and 20 times higher than among whites. The CDC notes that while African Americans make up only 12 percent of the nation’s population, they accounted for about 71 percent of gonorrhea cases and nearly half of chlamydia and syphilis cases in 2008.
Reported cases of syphilis continue to rise, mostly driven by increases in transmission among homosexually active men. The CDC reports that there were 13,500 cases of primary and secondary syphilis reported in 2008, representing a nearly 18 percent increase since the previous year. Of the total syphilis cases in 2008, 63 percent occurred among men who have sex with men (MSM). According to the CDC, “Increased syphilis transmission among MSM is believed to be the primary driver of syphilis rate increases nationally. For MSM, syphilis infection is of particular concern because it can facilitate HIV transmission and lead to irreversible complications such as strokes, especially in those who are HIV-infected.”
While the CDC report recognizes that the “most reliable ways to avoid infection with an STD are to abstain from sex…,” it stops short of recommending abstinence education as the best prevention method for adolescents. Instead, it recommends, “Expanded access to proven behavioral interventions to reduce the risk of contracting STDs, particularly those tailored for adolescents, MSM, and African-Americans at greatest risk, is an important component of the nation’s response.”
“Abstinence from sexual activity until marriage and then faithfulness within marriage are the only 100 percent certain ways to avoid any STDincluding the most common onesand their negative consequences, such as infertility,” said Jere Royall, director of community for impact for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “If the CDC is serious about reducing STDs among adolescents in particular, it should focus its behavioral prevention efforts on promoting and funding authentic abstinence-until-marriage education programs that encourage young people to make the healthiest choice possible to protect their overall well beingwhich is to postpone sexual activity until marriage.”
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