Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Youth on the Rise

Article by: Edie Alfano-Sobsey, PhD, MSPH, MT (ASCP), Human Services Program Manager/Epidemiologist, Wake County Government

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), most notably chlamydia and gonorrhea, have risen dramatically in Wake County, especially among our youth. In the past 5 years, overall rates have increased 30% for chlamydia and 56% for gonorrhea (Figure 1), with two-thirds of chlamydia and half of gonorrhea cases found in youth ages 15-24 (Figures 2 and 3). Anyone who is sexually active can get a STD, which may lead to problems like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women and infertility in men or women. In some cases, an STD can be life-threatening if left untreated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unique factors put young people at higher risk of acquiring STDs:

  • Insu­fficient screening for STDs: Many don't receive CDC recommended screening for STDs.
  • Confidentiality concerns: Reluctance to disclose risk factors to health care providers.
  • Biology: Young women’s bodies are biologically more susceptible to STDs.
  • Lack of access to healthcare: Youth often lack insurance or transportation to access needed prevention and treatment services.
  • Multiple Sex Partners: Many young people have multiple partners, which increases the risk of acquiring an STD.

How youth can protect themselves against STDs:

  • Practice abstinence.
  • Wear condoms if sexually active.
  • Reduce the number of sex partners.
  • Get vaccinated against certain STDs such as HPV and HBV.
  • Talk openly with partners about their sexual activity.
  • Get tested for early diagnosis and treatment.

Visit these CDC sites for more information:


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