By Will Dunham
© Reuters 2008 All rights reserved
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than one in four U.S. teen girls is infected with at least one sexually transmitted disease, and the rate is highest among blacks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.
An estimated 3.2 million U.S. girls ages 14 and 19 -- about 26 percent of that age group -- have a sexually transmitted infection such as the human papillomavirus or HPV, chlamydia, genital herpes or trichomoniasis, the CDC said.
Forty-eight percent of black teen-age girls were infected, compared to 20 percent of whites and 20 percent of Mexican American girls. The report did not give data on the broader U.S. Hispanic population.
How is that "Abstinence only" program working?
"What we found is alarming," the CDC's Dr. Sara Forhan, who led the study, told reporters. "This means that far too many young women are at risk for the serious health effects of untreated STDs, including infertility and cervical cancer."
Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention, said a complex mix of factors is to blame for the higher rates among black girls, including the overall higher presence of sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, in the broader black community.
"Therefore, for any given sex act with any given partner, a person who's not infected has a greater risk of coming into contact with infection and getting infected," Douglas said.
The CDC said the rate of STD infection among U.S. teen girls might be higher than the study indicates because it did not look at syphilis, gonorrhea or HIV infection, but said these generally are uncommon in girls this age.
The CDC said the report, released at a meeting in Chicago, was the first to gauge combined rates of common STDs in female adolescents, giving the best data to date.
Among girls who had an STD, 15 percent had more than one. About half reported ever having had sex, and among those girls, 40 percent had at least one STD. Of girls who had just one lifetime sexual partner, 20 percent had at least one STD.