CDC: Young People Account for Half of All New Sexually Transmitted Infections

February 14, 2013 - 7:08 AM

condoms

Jar of condoms located in an examination room at the Teen Wellness Center at the T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) - After years of sex education in the nation's public schools, a new report indicates that many young people are not listening or learning how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.  

The report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are more than 19.7 million new sexually transmitted infections in the United States each year, and young people ages 15-24 account for half of them.

Among those young people, the CDC found that 51 percent of the new infections occur in young women and 49 percent in young men.

"Because STIs are preventable, significant reductions in new infections are not only possible, they are urgently needed," the CDC said.

CDC’s analysis included eight common sexually transmitted infections: chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B virus (HBV), herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and trichomoniasis.

Some of those infections can cause serious health problems if not diagnosed and treated early.

And aside from the health implications, the new STIs cost nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs, the CDC reported.

Because some STIs – especially HIV – require lifelong treatment and care, they are by far the costliest. In addition, HPV is particularly costly due to the expense of treating HPV-related cancers. However, the annual cost of curable STIs is also significant ($742 million). Among these, chlamydia is most common and therefore the most costly, the report said.

"Abstaining from sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, and consistently and correctly using condoms are all effective STI prevention strategies," the CDC said.

Other findings:

-- Four of the STIs included in the analysis are easily treated and cured if diagnosed early: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. However, many of those infections go undetected because they often have no symptoms. CDC noted that undiagnosed and untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea can put a woman at increased risk of chronic pelvic pain, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, and can also increase a woman’s chance of infertility.

-- CDC estimates that HPV accounts for the majority of newly acquired STIs. While the vast majority (90 percent) of HPV infections will go away on their own within two years and cause no harm, some of these infections will linger and potentially lead to serious disease, including cervical cancer.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reported that as of March 2012:

-- 21 states and the District of Columbia require public schools to teach sex education (including HIV education).
-- 33 states and the District of Columbia require students receive instruction about HIV/AIDS.
-- 18 states require sex education curricula to be medically accurate and/or age appropriate.