Alarming trends in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among America's young people

New information by the American Social Health Association (ASHA) of Research Triangle Park, N.C. shows alarming trends in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among America's young people.

A study by ASHA, sponsored by Roche Diagnostics of Indianapolis, Indiana is being released in conjunction with April's STD Awareness Month and demonstrates that the incident rate of STDS in youth (ages 15-24) have increased dramatically in recent years.

Locally in California, Health Line Clinical Laboratories is supporting nationwide educational programs to bring awareness to the following trends noted by ASHA's 2005 study about STDs and youth's understanding of medical tests:

According to the ASHA Report 2005:

  • Many adolescents wrongly assume that health care providers are routinely testing them for STDs -- according to a survey conducted on ASHA's teen website (www.iwannaknow.org), 69% of females ages 13- to 25-years of age believe that Chlamydia testing is routine.
  • Chlamydia is the bacterial STD with the highest prevalence among youth and routine screening for chlamydial infection in young women has been demonstrated to work in reducing infection rates and lowering the cost of this STD to society.
  • 74% of all reported Chlamydia infections in 2000 were among sexually active youth ages 15-24.
  • 60% of all reported gonorrhea infections in 2000 were among sexually active youth ages 15-24.
  • Voluntarily reported performance measures of health plans under the Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set (HEDIS) show only 30% of females ages 16 to 25 in commercial plans and 45% of females ages 16 to 25 in Medicaid plans were screened for Chlamydia in 2003.
  • Less than one-third of physicians from a national survey routinely screened patients for STDs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends sexually active adolescent women should be screened for chlamydial infection at least annually, even if symptoms are not present. Chlamydia is the most frequently reported infectious disease in the U.S. and since 75% of infected women and 50% of infected men have no symptoms, most people are not aware that they have the disease. According to the CDC the cost of Chlamydia and its consequences is more than $2 billion annually in the United States alone and they state that every dollar spent in screening for the disease saves more that $12 in treating complications that may result from untreated infection by Chlamydia trachomatis.

Health Line Clinical Laboratories performs amplified nucleic acid testing by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) a Nobel Prize winning technology. PCR generates multiple copies of specific nucleic acid sequences from infectious agents such as Chlamydia to detect extremely low concentrations of the organism providing high sensitivity and specificity.

"As the incidence of STDs in youth increases, public awareness information such as the details provided by ASHA's report is critical in order to alert healthcare professionals, parents and youth about this serious health risk," said William Temple, MD, Medical Director of Health Line Clinical Laboratories. "Campaigns like the National STD Awareness Month also bring to light the important information and education about this growing challenge for the healthcare industry. Laboratory testing for infectious diseases is becoming an essential element in the battle for control of emerging diseases as well as ancient scourges of society that continue to ravage our youth. Genomic testing, especially the amplified nucleic acid detection methods, provide the sensitivity to allow for simplified alternative sampling and the specificity necessary to win this battle. At Health Line, we are focused on providing the latest technologies, such as real-time PCR, that promise to add incredible speed to assure rapid turnaround of results for more effective diagnosis and therapy."

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