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Sexual Diseases Often Strike Again

1 in 4 Women, 1 in 7 Men Get New Sexually Transmitted Disease Soon After First STD Cured
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 16, 2006 -- One in four women and one in seven men get a new sexually transmitted disease within a year of their last STD.

Many get these new infections within just three months of getting their first STD cured. Yet most people don't realize they have a new STD. That's because two-thirds of the new infections are still without symptoms.

The findings come from a CDC study of 2,419 people attending STD clinics for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and/or vaginal trichomoniasis. Researchers Thomas A. Peterman, MD, and colleagues paid the volunteers $25 (later raised to $50) to return to the clinic for retesting.

It's lucky they raised the ante. Few of the people who had a new STD realized it. They told the researchers they wouldn't have come in for testing if they hadn't been part of the study.

"Adequately treating the infection … often does not adequately treat the patient," Peterman and colleagues conclude. "People with one of these sexually transmitted infections may be part of a sexual network that places them at continued risk for all such infections."

The findings appear in the Oct. 17 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. The study recruited patients from Denver, Newark, N.J., and Long Beach, Calif.

Highest Risk Group

Having one STD puts a person at high risk of getting another STD, Peterman's team found. And the new infection was often a different disease than the first infection.

Black participants who'd had a first STD were at higher risk for new infections than were other groups. But having a new sex partner -- or having more than one sex partner -- doubled everyone's risk of a new STD in the year after having one STD treated.

The scariest finding is that two-thirds of the new infections were without symptoms. Many of these people had no idea they'd come down with a second STD. This means they would have continued to spread their infection in their communities.

"Continuing care for people with diagnoses of [sexually transmitted] infections would benefit the patient and the community," Peterman and colleagues suggest.

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