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 2008, 3,275.8 cases of chlamydia and 636.8 cases of gonorrhea were reported per 100,000 females aged 15–19 years, compared to 30.9 and 11.2 reported cases per 100,000 women aged 45–54 years, respectively. Syphilis was also more common among younger women in 2008, occurring among 3.0, 5.1, and 3.9 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 curved with antibiotics. Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2) is an infection that causes genital herpes and can lead to blindness, neonatal infections, and increased risk for HIV. Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1) can also cause genital herpes, but it is more commonly associated with sores around the mouth, and recurring symptoms are less common than with HSV-2. Overall, 59.1 percent of women tested positive for HSV-1 and 23.5 percent tested positive for HSV-2 in 2005–2008.

The prevalence of both HSV-1 and HSV-2 varies by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic Black (54.2 percent) and Hispanic women other than Mexican American (40.8 percent) were more likely to have tested positive for HSV-2 than non- Hispanic White and Mexican American women (18.0 and 14.7 percent, respectively). Despite the relatively low proportion of Mexican American women with HSV-2, they were more likely to have tested positive for HSV-1 than non-Hispanic Whites and non-Hispanic Blacks (83.8 versus 52.7 and 63.4 percent, respectively).

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