Youth Sexual Health Stagnates

ATLANTA

After a period of improvement, trends in the sexual and reproductive health of U.S. teens and young adults have flattened, or in some instances may be worsening, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“It is disheartening that after years of improvement with respect to teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, we now see signs that progress is stalling and many of these trends are going in the wrong direction,” said Janet Collins, Ph.D., director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Among the signs that progress has halted in some areas:

  • Teen birth rates increased in 2006 and 2007, following large declines from 1991-2005.
  • Rates of AIDS cases among males aged 15-24 years increased during 1997-2006 (AIDS data reflects people with HIV who have already progressed to AIDS.)
  • Syphilis cases among teens and young adults aged 15-19 and 20-24 years have increased in both males and females in recent years.

Other findings include:

  • There were approximately 745,000 pregnancies among U.S. females under age 20 in 2004.
  • In 2006, the majority of new diagnoses of HIV infection among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24 occurred among those aged 20-24 years and among males.
  • About 1 million adolescents and young adults aged 10-24 years were reported to have chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis in 2006. Nearly a quarter of females aged 15-19 years, and 45 percent of those aged 20-24 years, had a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection during 2003-2004.
  • Approximately 100,000 females aged 10-24 years visited a hospital emergency department for a nonfatal sexual assault injury during 2004-2006.
Although the sexual risk behaviors and negative health outcomes tended to increase with age, the youngest age group – youth 10-14 years of age – were also affected:
  • An estimated 16,000 pregnancies were reported among females in this age group in 2004.
  • Approximately 17,000 young people in this age group were reported to have a sexually transmitted infection in 2006.
  • During 2004-2006, 30,000 females in this age group visited a hospital emergency department because of a nonfatal sexual assault injury.
  • Approximately one third of adolescents had not received instruction on methods of birth control before age 18. “This report serves as a reminder that adolescents and young adults in this country continue to be impacted by STDs, including HIV,” said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. “It is imperative that all of us at the national and community level work together to ensure STD and HIV prevention programs are reaching young people, particularly in communities with the greatest burden of disease.”

    The full report is available at www.cdc.gov/mmwr.

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