STD rates ris­ing for na­tion’s young; fail­ure to teach risks of sex blamed

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ch­eryl Wet­zstein

The rates of three cur­able sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases all rose last year, in­di­cat­ing that the na­tion is los­ing ground in that pub­lic-health bat­tle.

A record 1 mil­lion chlamy­dia cases were re­ported in 2006, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) said Nov. 13 in its an­nual sur­veil­lance re­port on sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases, or STDs.

Gon­or­rhea rates rose for the sec­ond year, and the rate for syphilis — which was slated for erad­i­ca­tion a few years ago — rose for the sixth year.

The cases are part of an es­ti­mated 19 mil­lion new sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions that oc­cur each year, al­most half of which are con­tracted by peo­ple younger than 24 and which have di­rect med­i­cal costs of about $15 bil­lion a year.

“STDs pose a se­ri­ous and on­go­ing health threat to mil­lions of Amer­i­cans,” said Dr. John Mun­roe Douglas Jr., di­rec­tor of the CDC’s Di­vi­sion of STD Pre­ven­tion.

Most of the re­ported in­creases are oc­cur­ring in young women, men who have sex with men, and eth­ni­cor racial-mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions, Dr. Douglas said. He and other CDC of­fi­cials called for more at­ten­tion to STDs in pub­lic dis­course and among health care providers.

“This has been an ex­traor­di­nar­ily frus­trat­ing prob­lem for those of us at the fed­eral level, as well as folks at state and lo­cal health de­part­ments,” he said.

The Amer­i­can So­cial Health As­so­ci­a­tion, which fo­cuses on STD pre­ven­tion, has long of­fered pub­lic in­for­ma­tion about the three re­ported STDs, plus those that are not re­ported, such as gen­i­tal her­pes and hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus.

An­other or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Med­i­cal In­sti­tute for Sex­ual Health, re­cently started a free “self-as­sess­ment” Web site (www.std­wiz­ard.org), which al­lows peo­ple to anony­mously list their symp­toms and re­ceive med­i­cal guid­ance.

The CDC notes that cor­rect and con­sis­tent con­dom use is ef­fec­tive against con­tract­ing or spread­ing chlamy­dia, gon­or­rhea and syphilis.

But Dr. Gary L. Rose, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Med­i­cal In­sti­tute for Sex­ual Health, said the con­tin­ued in­creases in STD rates “can be di­rectly at­trib­uted to a fail­ure in con­tra­cep­tion-fo­cused ed­u­ca­tion to fully teach” young peo­ple about the risks of dis­ease. “Riskavoid­ance is the only sure way” to avoid un­wanted preg­nancy, dis­ease and other emo­tional con­se­quences of teen sex­ual ac­tiv­ity, he said.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Repub­li­can and a fre­quent critic of the CDC, said the new data are more ev­i­dence of “mis­placed pri­or­i­ties and mis­spending” by the agency.

“Ef­fec­tive pre­ven­tion against STDs and other com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases re­quires tar­get­ing re­sources to­wards those in­ter­ven­tions that ac­tu­ally work, such as rou­tine test­ing, part­ner coun­sel­ing and ed­u­ca­tion that em­pha­sizes risk-avoid­ance,” said Mr. Coburn, an ob­ste­tri­cian-gy­ne­col­o­gist.

The new CDC re­port finds that in 2006:

The chlamy­dia rate rose 5.6 per­cent, to 348 cases per 100,000 pop­u­la­tion. Chlamy­dia is of­ten asymp­to­matic and is es­pe­cially com- mon among teenage and col­legeage women.

The gon­or­rhea rate grew 5.5 per­cent, to 121 cases per 100,000 pop­u­la­tion or 358,366 cases.

The rate of syphilis, which reached a record low in 2000, rose to 3.3 cases per 100,000 pop­u­la­tion or 9,756 cases. Syphilis among males is now nearly six times the rate of fe­males, even though it used to be about even a decade ago.

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