Few With Venereal Disease In
US Know They Are Infected


CHICAGO (Reuters) - Few of those infected with two common sexually transmitted diseases are aware of any symptoms, suggesting the need for routine screening of all young adults in clinics, doctor's offices and even high schools, researchers said on Tuesday.
A survey of 728 young adults in Baltimore found 5 percent had an untreated infection with gonorrhea and 3 percent had an untreated chlamydia infection.
But only a tiny proportion of those infected said they had recognizable symptoms such as a burning sensation or discharges during urination. The study surveyed adults aged 18 to 35.
A majority of cases of the two sexually transmitted diseases go undiagnosed, and sexually active teen-agers are also becoming infected, wrote study author Charles Turner of the Research Triangle Institute in Washington.
"Strategies for reducing the prevalence of infection in this population might include screening or routine testing in health care settings for the entire population of young adults, including persons who formerly would be considered to be at low risk of infection," Turner wrote in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.
Black women were at the highest risk of infection with gonorrhea or chlamydia, which can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, potentially fatal ectopic pregnancies, and facilitate the transmission of the AIDS virus.
Improvements in testing and risk assessments for these diseases should lower barriers to routine screening that might entail urine testing for chlamydia in high schools, Dr. Dennis Fortenberry of the Indiana University School of Medicine wrote in an accompanying editorial.
Not embarking on testing programs because of cost, confidentiality or the problem of false-positive results are simply "veils that no longer seem affordable," he wrote.
"Embarrassment on the part of the patient or clinician or poor assessment of sexual health risk are common but not satisfactory reasons for avoiding this task," he wrote.

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