U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Sexually Transmitted Infections

Reported rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among females vary by age. Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are highest among adolescents and young adults. In 2007, there were 3,004.7 reported cases of chlamydia and 647.9 reported cases of gonorrhea per 100,000 females aged 15–19 years, compared to 28.5 and 12.1 reported cases per 100,000 women aged 45–54 years, respectively. Syphilis was also more common among young women in 2007, occurring among 2.4, 3.5, and 2.6 per 100,000 females aged 15–19, 20–24, and 25–29 years, respectively (data not shown).

Although chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can be cured with appropriate antibiotics, left untreated they can have serious health consequences. Active infections can increase the likelihood of contracting another STI, such as HIV, and untreated STIs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Some STIs cannot be cured with antibiotics but can only be treated to improve symptoms. Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2) is an untreatable viral infection that can cause neonatal infections and increase risk for contracting HIV. HSV-2 is one of two viral infections that cause genital herpes. The prevalence of HSV-2 varies by age and sex. In 1999–2004, females were more likely than males to have HSV-2 (22.8 versus 11.2 percent, respectively). This was true for every age category. Women aged 40–49 years were most likely to have HSV-2 (33.9 percent), compared to 15.6 percent of females aged 20– 29 and 2.3 percent of those aged 14–19 years.

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