According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of the 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) each year are among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. In fact, teens and young adults are the fastest growing groups of people contracting STDs.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are among the most common STDs reported in teens. Health officials say the fact that symptoms can be mild or non-existent may result in many young people not knowing they are infected. When this happens, the chances of them spreading the infection to their partners increase.
However, in Illinois, a program known as expedited partner therapy (EPT) is working to reduce outbreaks. According to the Boling Brook Patch, EPT allows healthcare providers to write prescriptions for a patients with chlamydia or gonorrhea to get orders for their partners without them actually seeing a doctor.
"Treating the partners is the key once an STD has been identified," Lyyti Dudczyk, from the Will County, Illinois, Health Department, told the newspaper. "The partner or partners need to be treated otherwise we can't stop the cycle."
In addition to spreading the viruses, many STDs can cause long-term health issues, including infertility, if left untreated.
The CDC reports that adolescent STD rates may be influenced by lack of health insurance or ability to pay, lack of transportation, discomfort with facilities and services designed for adults, and concerns about confidentiality.