Posted Oct. 17, 2007 – It's time to make some noice about Sexually Transmitted Diseases. That's because millions of Americans, particularly African American teens, are walking around with two of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and don't know it.
More than 2 million Americans have chlamydia and 250,000 more have gonorrhea, say government scientists. And the diseases are most prevalent among young people and African Americans. Those were the findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which, from 1999 to 2002, studied 6,632 people between the ages of 14 and 39.
Overall, more than 9 million young adults, aged 15 to 24 years old contracted some form of a sexually transmitted disease in 2000, according to CDC analysis.
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The numbers are stark for African Americans. Chlamydia infections among African Americans were roughly four times higher than for Whites (6.4 percent vs. 1.5 percent) and the disparity was even higher for gonorrhea, the study found.
“…Both chlamydia and gonorrhea still pose significant health risks in the United States and … disparities exist, especially with regard to the prevalence of gonorrhea among Whites and Blacks," says epidemiologist Dr. S. Deblina Datta, of the study her team published in the Annals of Internal Medicine this summer.
According to her team’s estimate, two of every 100 (2.2 percent) Americans under age 40 are infected with chlamydia and just under one in 400 (0.24 percent) have gonorrhea. While symptoms can include painful urination, abdominal pain and an unusual discharge from the vagina or penis, many people with chlamydia or gonorrhea have no symptoms at all, health experts say.
In women, untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and pregnancy complications such as low-birth-weight babies, premature birth and serious infections in newborns. Recent studies also show some sperm damage in men who get chlamydia.
Treatment with antibiotics is important to prevent these and other complications and to avoid spreading the disease, the scientists say, but many people don't get treated because they don't know they are infected, they say. For more on this silent threat, check out the STDs premer on BlackDoctor.org.
To halt the spread of the disease, and get people treatment to those who don’t know they have it, the Centers for Disease Control recommends annual chlamydia screenings for all sexually active women under 26, and annual screenings for older women with risk factors for the sexually transmitted diseases, such as a new sex partner or multiple partners.
"If screening recommendations are properly applied, they will be effective, but we know that this isn't happening consistently," Datta says. "This needs to be a focus of preventiion."
If you're wondering how to protect yourself, here are 10 more things you should know about STDs.