Nov. 23, 2009 -- One in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted infection (STI), according to a new study.
Researchers found that 24.1% of girls between the ages of 14 and 19 tested positive for one of five of the most common sexually transmitted infections, including human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes simplex virus type 2, and chlamydia.
But what they say is most concerning is how soon these sexually transmitted infections appeared after teenage girls began engaging in sexual activity. The study showed that within one year of initiating sexual activity, 19.2% of teen girls had an STI.
"The prevalence of STIs among female adolescents is substantial, and STIs begin to be acquired soon after sexual initiation and with few sex partners," write researcher Sara E. Forhan, MD, MPH, of the CDC and colleagues in Pediatrics.
The presence of a sexually transmitted infection does not necessarily mean that the person will develop symptoms of the disease. But some infections can lead to long-term complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and cervical cancer. Some STIs also increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV.
In the study, researchers analyzed information collected from 838 teenage girls aged 14-19 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2003-2004.
The girls were interviewed, examined, and tested for the following five sexually transmitted infections: gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, herpes simplex virus type 2, and HPV.
Overall, 24.1% tested positive for at least one of these STIs, and the prevalence was higher, 37.7%, among sexually experienced teenage girls.
The most common STI was HPV (18.3% of all girls) followed by chlamydia (3.9%).
"These findings highlight the importance of both primary and secondary STI prevention, including early, skill-based sex education; HPB vaccination of preadolescent girls; and chlamydia screening of all sexually active female adolescents," the researchers write.