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Children's Health

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Screening in High Schools May Lower the Prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases


For all three years of testing and in all eight schools combined, the prevalence of chlamydia was 6% for boys and 11.5% for girls. The prevalence increased with age and nearly doubled between grades 9 and 12. There was less of an age difference with gonorrhea, but again prevalence tended to be twice as high in girls as in boys.

More than 90% of the students found to be infected on the first test had no symptoms. Infected students were treated with antibiotics and given counseling.

The researchers were encouraged by some of their findings. With repeated testing, chlamydia prevalence among boys dropped to 3%, compared to the 6% prevalence seen in the comparison schools. Among girls, although less impressive, the chlamydia prevalence declined to 10% from 12% in the comparison schools.

Gonorrhea prevalence declined in girls, from 3% in the first year to 2% in the third year. These declines, especially in chlamydia prevalence among boys, indicate that STD screening programs in high schools have the potential to reduce infections in adolescents.

STDs "can cause serious long-term complications," Farley warns. Since these diseases often cause no symptoms in their early stages, he recommends that consumers, especially teenagers, request screening from their doctors. "If we want to control gonorrhea and chlamydia, we must do more widespread testing in the clinic, as well as in schools."

Vital Information:

  • Screening all teenagers is an effective way to detect STDs, according to a new study.
  • More than 90% of students with STDs had no symptoms, and the prevalence of chlamydia and gonorrhea was twice as high in girls than in boys.
  • Undetected STDs, even without symptoms, can cause serious long-term complications, such as infertility or the ability to contract HIV more easily.
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