Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Sexual Conditions Health Center

Font Size

Young People Account for Half of New STDs

New Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among Youth Cost $6.5 Billion
WebMD Health News

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 now.

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 2000.

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 care.

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.

Today on WebMD

Sex Drive Killers 03
couple holding hands
Couple in bed
Condom Quiz

HIV Myth Facts
STD Overview
Man tearing a condom packet
things your guy wish you knew slideshow

Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Girls Puberty 10
Couple in bed
Young couple holding hands

WebMD Special Sections