A new report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes some sobering statistics about sexually transmitted diseases.
The government agency analyzed data on eight STDs - chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes, HIV, human papillomavirus, syphilis and trichomoniasis. They discovered that there are more than 110 million American men and women with these infections. Additionally, nearly 20 million new STDs are contracted each year, with as many as half of them infecting people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases that revealed that the cost of treated infected individuals is likely to put an economic burden on the U.S. healthcare system. In total, the agency estimated that it will cost nearly $16 billion to treat Americans with STDs.
"Because some STDs - especially HIV - require lifelong treatment and care, they are by far the costliest," the study's authors wrote. "In addition, HPV is particularly costly due to the expense of treating HPV-related cancers. However, the annual cost of curable STDs is also significant ($742 million). Among these, chlamydia is most common and therefore the most costly."
Overall, HPV was found to be the most common sexually transmitted disease. The CDC recommends that all teen girls and women through age 26 get vaccinated against the virus, as well as all teen boys and men through age 21. Officials state that HPV vaccines are most effective if they are administered before an individual becomes sexually active.
STD testing recommendations
Individuals are urged to speak with a medical professional regarding their ideal testing schedule. However, the CDC makes specific recommendations on how often individuals should be tested.
1. All adults and adolescents should be tested at least once for HIV in their lifetime.
2. Sexually active women under the age of 25 should have an annual chlamydia screening. Those over age 25 who have risk factors, including multiple or new sexual partners, should also be tested yearly.
3. Women who have multiple partners or other high-risk factors should be tested once a year for gonorrhea.
4. Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, chlamydia and hepatitis B at their first prenatal visit. At-risk mothers-to-be should also be tested for gonorrhea.
5. Women infected with HIV should be tested annually for trichomoniasis.
6. Men who have sex with men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV.
It's important to remember that many STDs are asymptomatic and can be unknowingly passed to sexual partners because infected individuals simply don't know they are infected. While abstinence is the only way to guarantee that people don't contract an STD, health officials urge those who are having sex to use condoms consistently and correctly in order to reduce their risks.