One in 4 Teen Girls Has a Sexually Transmitted Disease
Tuesday, March 11, 2008; 12:00 AM
TUESDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- More than 3 million teenaged girls have at least one sexually transmitted disease (STD), a new government study suggests.
The most severely affected are African-American teens. In fact, 48 percent of African-American teenaged girls have an STD, compared with 20 percent of white teenaged girls.
"What we found is alarming," Dr. Sara Forhan, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a teleconference Tuesday. "One in four female adolescents in the U.S. has at least one of the four most common STDs that affects women."
"These numbers translate into 3.2 million young women nationwide who are infected with an STD," Forhan said. "This means that far too many young women are at risk of the serious health effects of untreated STDs, including infertility and cervical cancer."
These common STDs include human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, herpes simplex virus and trichomoniasis, Forhan said.
Forhan announced the results as part of the CDC's 2008 National STD Prevention Conference, in Chicago.
"These findings are really giving us a lot of pause about how we provide care to adolescent girls who are sexually active," said Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City and chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Section of Adolescent Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "The numbers are really astonishing."
Forhan noted that most of the burden of STDs falls on young African-American women. "Among African-American teenagers, about one in two were affected compared to one in five white teens," she said.
In terms of the racial disparity, "it's what we've always seen, which is very unfortunate," Alderman said.
In the study, Forhan's team collected data on 838 girls aged 14 to 19 who took part in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The study did not include syphilis, gonorrhea or HIV, as earlier studies found very low prevalence of these diseases in this age group.
HPV and chlamydia are the most common STDs found among teenage girls, Forhan said. "Almost one in five overall had a strain of HPV associated with cervical cancer or genital warts," she said.
"We need to be screening adolescent girls who are sexually active and providing them with HPV vaccine," Alderman said. "The recommendations are to screen sexually active girls, but many girls don't disclose to their health-care provider that they are sexually active, even when asked," she said.