Talk to Young Adults About Importance of Sexually Transmitted Infection Testing
The creators of a new national campaign are spreading the word out about the importance of testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in adolescents and young adults.
- Young adults are most at risk for STIs, with one in two sexually active people contracting an infection by age 25.
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most prevalent STIs among young people. In 2015, there were 981,359 reported cases of chlamydia infection in the United States among people 15-24 years of age, representing more than 60% of all reported chlamydia cases. In that same year, rates of reported gonorrhea cases were highest among adolescents and young adults.
When it comes to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), young adults are most at risk, with one in two sexually active people contracting an infection by age 25.1 The creators of a new national campaign, “YES Means TEST,” are spreading the word about the importance of STI testing in this at-risk population.
Launched in April 2017 by the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), the campaign seeks to normalize STI testing so young people will view it as a natural part of saying “YES” to sexual activity. The campaign features online advertising, media efforts, and links with advocacy groups. All activities direct people to www.YESmeansTEST.org to help people find nearby clinics to receive confidential and free/low-cost STI testing.
There are several reasons young people aren’t getting tested, says Lynn Barclay, ASHA president and chief executive officer. They often are in denial about the risk of STIs, aren’t educated about their harmful effects, or may be too embarrassed to discuss the topic, she notes.
“We’ve got to reverse that stigma so people, especially young women, feel empowered to take ownership of their sexual health,” Alexander said at the campaign launch.
Providers can join in promoting testing by posting a free, downloadable document, available at http://bit.ly/2qfY3SQ, in their facilities.
Condoms must be a part of any discussion with adolescents, according to Robert Hatcher, MD, MPH, professor emeritus of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
“We know the two most common reasons people do not use a condom: One, no condom is available, and two, a couple thinks they are not at risk for pregnancy or infection,” Hatcher observes. “Consistent and correct use of condoms is extremely important if our nation is to prevent the myriad sexually transmitted infections afflicting young adults.”
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most prevalent STIs among young people. In 2015, there were 981,359 reported cases of chlamydia infection among Americans 15-24 years of age, representing 64.3% of all reported cases.2
In 2015, rates of reported gonorrhea cases were highest among young adults and adolescents, with the highest rate among females 20-24 years of age (546.9 cases per 100,000) and 15-19 years of age (442.2 cases per 100,000).
For men, the rate also was highest among those 20-24 years of age (539.1 cases per 100,000) and 25-29 years of age (448.8 cases per 100,000).2
Since STI symptoms may go undetected, many may go without testing. Untreated STIs can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a serious condition for women. It is estimated that one in eight women with a history of PID experience difficulties conceiving.3 (For more information on this subject, please visit: http://bit.ly/2qdTJFv.)
“YES Means TEST” was designed primarily to reach women 18-24 years of age who are sexually active but do not seek regular STI testing. The CDC recommends annual chlamydia and gonorrhea screenings for this group.4
Don’t Forget Men
An examination of national chlamydia and gonorrhea case report data in adolescents 15-19 years of age indicates that after years of decreases, chlamydia and gonorrhea rates are increasing among adolescent males, while rates continue to decline among their female peers.5 What factors may have led to this finding?
Findings from the CDC’s STD Surveillance Report has shown that increases in overall number of reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea in recent years have largely been driven by men, notes Elizabeth Torrone, PhD, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s division of STD prevention. Because most chlamydial infections are asymptomatic, the number of infections that are reported can be affected by how many people receive screening, as well as the expanded use of more sensitive diagnostic tests, she says.
“We are not yet certain why reported cases of chlamydia has increased among men, but increased implementation of STD Screening Recommendations, which include annual syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea tests for all sexually active men who have sex with men, as well as evolving testing strategies that include more extragenital screening, may be increasing detection of chlamydial infections,” Torrone explains.
- Cates JR, Herndon NL, Schulz S L, et al. Our Voices, Our Lives, Our Futures: Youth and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, 2004.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2015. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016.
- Das BB, Ronda J, Trent M. Pelvic inflammatory disease: Improving awareness, prevention, and treatment. Infect Drug Resist 2016;9:191-197.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2015. MMWR Recomm Rep 2015;64(No. RR-3):1-137.
- Weston E, Kreisel K, Torrone E. The curious case of rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia among adolescents (15-19 years) in the United States, 2011-2015. Presented at the 2016 National STD Prevention Conference, Atlanta. September 2016.
When it comes to sexually transmitted infections, young adults are most at risk, with one in two sexually active people contracting an infection by age 25.
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