Only about one in four young women most at risk for chlamydia (search) are getting chlamydia tests, according to a new CDC study.
Researchers found rates of chlamydia tests among sexually active young women aged 16-24 who were enrolled in commercial health plans have increased only slightly from 20 percent in 1999 to 26 percent in 2001.
Chlamydia test rates were higher among young women enrolled in Medicare (search). However the rates were still well below national recommendations that call for routine chlamydia tests for all sexually active women under the age of 26 and pregnant women of all ages.
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., but up to 70 percent of chlamydia infections cause no noticeable symptoms.
If untreated, chlamydia can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and infection shortly before or after giving birth.
Chlamydia Testing Lacking
In the study, which appears in the Oct. 29 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers analyzed rates of chlamydia tests among young women enrolled in 335 commercial health plans and 92 Medicare plans from 1999-2001.
The report showed that the percentage of sexually active women aged 16-26 enrolled in commercial health plans who received chlamydia tests rose gradually from 20 percent in 1999 to 25 percent in 2000 and 26 percent in 2001.
Among those enrolled in Medicare plans, the percentage who got chlamydia tests was 28 percent in 1999, 36 percent in 2000, and 38 percent in 2001.
Testing rates were slightly higher among younger women aged 16-20 enrolled in commercial health plans than among women aged 21-26 in this group. But with Medicare users, testing rates were slightly higher among older women aged 20-26.
Researchers say several factors may be contributing to the low rates of chlamydia tests found by the study. For example, health care providers may underestimate the rates of chlamydia infections in adolescent girls and young women, or they may have a misperception that adolescent girls are not sexually active, and their patients may not be requesting chlamydia tests.
They say the findings highlight the need to increase chlamydia tests to reduce the estimated $249 million in direct medical costs of chlamydia and its associated complications for adolescents and young adults.
SOURCES: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Oct. 29, 2004; vol 53: pp 983-985. News release, CDC.