Young People Account for Half of New STDs
New Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among Youth Cost $6.5 Billion
Feb. 25, 2004 -- One out of every two new sexually transmitted
diseases (STDs) diagnosed each year are among young people aged 15-24,
according to new research that for the first time estimates the toll STDs have
on American youth.
Researchers say that although young people between the ages of
15 and 24 represent about 25% of the sexually experienced population, the
prevalence of STDs among this group has not been examined thoroughly until
The study, conducted by researchers at the CDC, found that of
the approximately 18.9 million new cases of STDs in 2000, nearly half of them
were diagnosed among people in this age group.
A related CDC report estimates that direct medical costs
associated with a lifetime of treating cases of STD infection diagnosed in
young people in 2000 could reach $6.5 billion. The majority of that cost -- 90%
-- is for treatment of HIV.
Both studies appear in the January/February issue of
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.
STDs Affect Youth Disproportionately
Researchers say sexually transmitted diseases are among the
most common infections in the U.S. According to national estimates for 1996,
more than 15 million new STD infections occur each year.
But since 1996, expanded screening programs and improved
detection tests have allowed researchers to more accurately monitor STDs.
In the study, researchers used data from a variety of sources
to estimate the prevalence of the eight most common STDs among 15- to
24-year-olds in the U.S. in 2000. The diseases included chlamydia, gonorrhea,
syphilis, genital herpes, HPV (human papillomavirus), hepatitis B,
trichomoniasis, and HIV.
Researchers found despite decreases in the rates of some STDs
during the 1990s, an estimated 18.9 million new cases of STDs occurred in 2000
and 9.1 million of them were among young people aged 15-24.
Of the STDs examined, HPV was the most common, followed by
trichomoniasis and chlamydia. Together, these three STDs accounted for 88% of
all new STD cases among 15- to 24-year-olds in 2000.
The second study estimated that HIV and HPV were the most
costly STDs in terms of direct medical expenses associated with treating them
and accounted for 90% of the total financial burden of newly diagnosed STDs in
Researchers say these findings may still underestimate the true
impact of STDs on youth. They say any attempt to estimate the prevalence of
STDs is severely hampered by the fact that many STDs do not cause symptoms and
often go unreported because the infected individual doesn't seek medical
In addition, young, apparently healthy, persons may have
limited contact with health care providers that might screen for STDs.
"Nevertheless, given the available information about the
burden of STDs among sexually active young people, our estimate of 9.1 million
new infections [48%] in 2000 among 15-24-year-olds demonstrates the tremendous
toll these infections continue to have on youth in America," write CDC
researcher Hillard Weinstock and colleagues.