Sexually transmitted infections common in teen girls

Many young women are infected soon after their sexual debut.

Nov 20th, 2009

In a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientists found roughly one in four girls ages 14 to 19 had one of five common sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and many were infected soon after their first sexual experience.

The study, "Prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Female Adolescents Aged 14 to 19 in the U.S.," published in the December issue of Pediatrics, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004. A total of 838 girls were interviewed and examined, and they provided biological specimens for laboratory testing.

Researchers looked for Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, Trichomonas vaginalis, herpes simplex virus type 2, and human papillomavirus (HPV). The prevalence of of these infections was 24.1%. The rate of STIs was higher, 37.7%, among sexually experienced teens. The most prevalent STI was HPV infection (18.3 percent of all girls), followed by chlamydia (3.9 percent). Less than a year after sexual initiation, 19.2 percent of girls had an STI.

According to the study authors, the findings support early and comprehensive sex education, routine HPV vaccination at the age of 11 to 12 years, and chlamydia screening of sexually active teen girls.

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