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Only Half of Women Recieve Appropriate STD Screening


Despite recent efforts to increase STD screening in women, only half of sexually active women between the ages of 14 to 25 are screened appropriately.

Researchers at the University School of Medicine examined data from more than 40,000 patient visits to health care facilities. They found that of women ages 14 to 25 receiving health care, only half of them were screened for chlamydia, a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). In addition, minority women, particularly black and Hispanics, were screened at a much higher rate than Caucasian women.

Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the US. In 2008, there were over 1,210,523 reported cases of chlamydia. However, the CDC estimates that the actual totally number of cases was 2,291,000. The incidence of chlamydia was 8 times more in blacks than whites. Hispanics also had higher reported incidences.

Chlamydia, known as the “silent: disease, often causes very mild, if any, symptoms in women. This makes it unlikely for women to seek treatment for their infections. Therefore, this lack of recognition and reporting has signaled the need for widespread screening of of sexually active women.

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However, according to this study which will appear in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, white women are not receiving the STD screening that they need from their health care providers. The researchers reported that black and Hispanic women were 2.7 and 9.7 times more likely than whites to receive screening for chlamydia, respectively. Furthermore, if the women had been pregnant in the past, this increased to 24 times more likely for Hispanics and 4 times more for blacks.

Other factors that affected STD screening, aside from race, included a medial history of STDs, age and insurance. The study found that women who had private insurance were less likely to be screened.

Senior author, Dr. Sarah E. Wiehe, suggests that health care providers are making judgments about a woman's likelihood for a chlamydia infection based upon race, ethnicity or social status. "For some common conditions like breast cancer, white women are more likely to receive a screening test like mammography. For chlamydia infections – which are highly stigmatized STDs – white women are less likely, while minority women are more likely, to receive screening...Yet in an asymptomatic condition like chlamydia, all sexually active young women should be screened."

Chlamydia, if caught and treated early, can be cured with lasting no lasting negative effects. We know getting checked for STDs is important for health, yet according to the finding, most sexually active women don't get appropriate testing that can mean loss of fertility and more STDs in the community.

Updated 8/5/2012