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Sexual Conditions Health Center

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Twice Yearly Chlamydia Tests Recommended for Young Women

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"We found very high rates among young females," says lead author Gale Burstein, MD, MPH. "If we only offered [women] annual screening, we would miss a lot of infections." Burstein is an epidemiologist with the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health in Atlanta.

Burstein tells WebMD that she hopes medical organizations and panels that develop preventive health care guidelines will adopt their recommendation for semi-annual screening. Physicians would also be more likely to order such screenings if insurance companies agreed to cover them more often than once a year. The CDC has not yet endorsed the recommendation, nor has the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

"This article shows us there is a lot more chlamydia out there than we know," says Jennifer Gunter, MD, who independently reviewed the study for WebMD. "It is a huge problem globally. No one is immune from it. We see a lot of sexually transmitted diseases in young kids. All it takes is one kid, and it can spread like wildfire." Gunter is an assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

But Gunter and other public health experts tell WebMD that doing such tests every 6 months is not necessary in parts of the country where the infection rate is lowest. In those areas, they say, all sexually active females regardless of their age should be screened at least once a year.

And they remind women that such tests don't prevent chlamydia -- only abstaining from sex or using condoms can do that.

"The best message to give to women who do not accept abstinence, which is the best preventive measure, is to use condoms to prevent infection -- and not to rely on screening," says Deborah A. Cohen, MD, MPH, an associate professor of public health at Louisiana State University and a medical director in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. "Screening does not prevent infection, but leads to treatment after the fact. Although chlamydia is curable with single dose therapy, the infection may damage their reproductive tracts if it is not detected and treated early."

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