Sex Infections Common in U.S.

The United States leads other developed nations in death and disability caused by sexually transmitted diseases, shows a new study.

That dismal finding is based on research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that looked at national data on sexual health, death records, and other key factors for the year 1998. Disability-adjusted life years — a measure indicating years cut short by death or disability from sexually transmitted disease — was about three-times higher in the United States than in other healthy nations around the world.

Overall, the investigators linked sexual behavior to about 20 million adverse health outcomes such as abortions, infertility and infections. Women were more affected than men, suffering about two-thirds of all the adverse health consequences. Due to the influence of HIV/AIDS, men were more likely to die from sexually transmitted diseases than women, but the investigators point out women would bear about 80 percent of the excess death burden if AIDS was taken out of the equation. Leading causes of sexually transmitted disease deaths among women were cervical cancer and HIV infection.

The authors believe these findings call for new initiatives to combat sexually transmitted disease. “Interventions among adolescents to delay age at first sexual contact, widespread Papanicolaou testing and use of hepatitis B vaccine, screening and treatment of curable STDs, and correct and consistent use of condoms and contraceptives can reduce the sexual behavior-related public health burden substantially,” they write.

SOURCE: Sexually Transmitted Infections, 2005;81:38-40

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