CDC: Not Enough Young Women Screened for Chlamydia
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Posted by: Emily Mullin
Just 38 percent of sexually active young women were screened for chlamydia in the previous year, according to a March 13 report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC recommends annual screening for all sexually active women aged 25 and under.
The analysis, along with additional research highlighting the need to expand chlamydia screening and retesting, was presented early this week at the National STD Prevention Conference in Minneapolis.
CDC researchers analyzed self-reported data on chlamydia testing among teenage girls and young women aged 15 to 25 in the United States from the 2006 to 2008 cycle of the National Survey of Family Growth, a nationally representative household survey.
Overall testing rates remain low, although testing was most common among African-American women, those who had multiple sex partners, and those who received public insurance or were uninsured. The CDC pointed out that this is encouraging because these groups are often the highest at risk for chlamydia.
"This new research makes it clear that we are missing too many opportunities to protect young women from health consequences that can last a lifetime,” Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said in a statement. "Annual chlamydia screening can protect young women’s reproductive health now and safeguard it for the future.”
Chlamydia is the most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States, and young people are most affected. Those infected often do not suffer symptoms, so many infections go undetected and untreated. But untreated chlamydia can have severe long-term health consequences, particularly for young women, including chronic pelvic pain, potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy and infertility.
CDC recommends that anyone diagnosed with chlamydia be retested three months after initial treatment to ensure that those who may have become reinfected can be promptly treated with antibiotics. New data show that retesting rates remain low and many reinfections likely are being missed. CDC’s Infertility Prevention Project found that just 11 percent of men and 21 percent of women were retested within 30 to 180 days of infection. Of those who were retested, a significant proportion again tested positive – 25 percent of men and 16 percent of women.
Simple solutions can help improve retesting rates, such as a three-step process introduced at the University at Buffalo student health center that includes patient counseling and early reminders to return to the clinic. This initiative increased chlamydia retesting rates within four months from 16 percent to 89 percent. Additionally, several California family planning clinics increased retesting rates by inserting pop-up reminders into their electronic records systems.
STD screening and treatment is one of the most effective tools available to protect one’s health and prevent the spread of STDs to others. Though far too few Americans are being screened and retested for chlamydia as CDC recommends, these data show that simple changes can help improve our ability to diagnose and treat STDs.