STDs Run Rampant Among Teen Criminals, But Screening May Help

How important is it to screen teenagers — arrested for juvenile defenses — for sexually transmitted diseases?

According to one study, teens who are taken into custody have a high rate of STDs and screening may help catch many cases, Reuters reported.

It’s been known for some time that incarcerated adolescents have relatively high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, but little is known about the STD risk among teens who are arrested and then released, according to the report.

So, researchers set out to find some answers by assessing a pilot program set up in Hillsborough Country, Fla. It offers STD testing to teenagers soon after their arrest, before a decision is made to whether to release or detain them, Reuters reported.

What they found was that among more than 900 juvenile offenders, 13 percent had gonorrhea, chlamydia or both.

Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes in women, and in the urethra in both women and men. The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its Web site.

Click here to find out more about STDs from the CDC.

It’s also incredibly common. The CDC estimates that more that 700,000 people in the U.S. come down with new gonorrheal infections each year.

But, it’s not more common than chlamydia. It’s the most frequently reported bacterial STD in this country, according to the CDC. In 2006, more than one million cases were reported. Chlamydia is caused by a bacterium which can damage a woman’s reproductive organs.

The CDC recommends an annual chlamydia screening for all sexually active women aged 25-years-old or younger, older women who have a new sex partner or multiple sex partners and all pregnant women. If you’re worried you could be at risk, ask your health care provider to conduct a sexual risk assessment.

Routine testing and treating adolescences for STDs soon after arrest is a step in the right direction, the researchers said in the report.

It could have "enormous potential public health benefits," said lead researcher Dr. Steven Belenko of Temple University in Philadelphia.

The findings are published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

Click here to read more from Reuters.