WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Nov. 23, 2009 -- One in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted
infection (STI), according to a new study.
Researchers found that 24.1% of girls between the ages of 14 and 19 tested
positive for one of five of the most common sexually transmitted infections,
including human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes simplex virus type 2, and
But what they say is most concerning is how soon these sexually transmitted
infections appeared after teenage girls began engaging in sexual activity. The
study showed that within one year of initiating sexual activity, 19.2% of teen
girls had an STI.
"The prevalence of STIs among female adolescents is substantial, and STIs
begin to be acquired soon after sexual initiation and with few sex partners,"
write researcher Sara E. Forhan, MD, MPH, of the CDC and colleagues in
The presence of a sexually transmitted infection does not necessarily mean
that the person will develop symptoms of the disease. But some infections can
lead to long-term complications, such as
pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility,
cancer. Some STIs also increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV.
In the study, researchers analyzed information collected from 838 teenage
girls aged 14-19 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey in 2003-2004.
The girls were interviewed, examined, and tested for the following five
sexually transmitted infections: gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis,
herpes simplex virus type 2, and HPV.
Overall, 24.1% tested positive for at least one of these STIs, and the
prevalence was higher, 37.7%, among sexually experienced teenage girls.
The most common STI was HPV (18.3% of all girls) followed by chlamydia
"These findings highlight the importance of both primary and secondary STI
prevention, including early, skill-based sex education; HPB vaccination of
preadolescent girls; and chlamydia screening of all sexually active female
adolescents," the researchers write.
SOURCES:Forhan, S. Pediatrics, Dec. 2009; vol 124: 1505-1512.News release, Nature Journals.American Academy of Pediatrics.
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