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Rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in American teenage girls

A nationally representative US study has found that one in four teenage girls has at least one sexually transmitted disease. The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is the first to examine the combined national prevalence of common STIs among adolescent women (aged 14-19) in the United States. Of the 838 female participants, 26% were found to have at least one common STI.

Selected findings:

  • The most common STI was cancer- and genital wart-associated human papillomavirus (HPV) (18.3%), followed by chlamydia (3.9%) and trichomoniasis (2.5%). Among the teenage girls who had an STI, 15% had more than one.
  • By race, African American teenage girls had the highest prevalence, with an overall STI prevalence of 48% compared to 20% among both whites and Mexican Americans. (Other Hispanics and race/ethnic populations were captured in the survey, but there were insufficient numbers in any one group to permit valid prevalence estimates for any group except Mexican Americans.)
  • Overall, approximately half of all the teens in the study reported ever having had sex. Among these girls, the STI prevalence was 40%.
  • Even among girls reporting only one lifetime partner, one in five (20.4%) had at least one STI. Girls with three or more partners had a prevalence of over 50%. The predominant STI was HPV.

Sources: The Age, 13 March 2008, p.5.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA) 2008, 2008 National STD Prevention Conference – Summaries of highlighted research, media release, 11 March, viewed 3 July 2008,

US Department of Health and Human Services 2008, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004, viewed 3 July 2008,

Earlier information:

2001 to 2007