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CDC: Few Women Getting STD Testing for Chlamydia (March 30, 2012)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 16 million women aged 15 to 25 engage in a sexually active lifestyle. Many do not seek routine testing for sexually transmitted diseases and reports suggest little more than one third of these women underwent screening for Chlamydia. Left undiagnosed and untreated, the STD has the potential for causing chronic pain, infertility or life-threatening pregnancies.

In 2010, the CDC received a total of 1,307,893 confirmed reports of Chlamydia cases from all of the 50 states in the U.S. The organization fears that unreported cases may total twice this amount because the disease often does not produce symptoms. When diagnosed in its early stages, physicians easily treat Chlamydia with oral antibiotics. Annual STD testing along with retesting following treatment ensures that women will not suffer long-term serious effects.

Chlamydia Infection

The Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria are responsible for causing the infection. Once the organism enters the cervix, women may experience an abnormal vaginal discharge and burning with urination. As the infection advances to the uterus and fallopian tubes, symptoms might include lower back pain, nausea and fever. Women may also experience pain during intercourse and have bleeding between menstrual cycles. Many women do not exhibit any symptoms, which enables the infection to remain hidden and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or permanent tissue damage.

Tissue damage may cause infertility or dangerous ectopic pregnancies. Infants successfully carried full-term while a mother has Chlamydia often exhibit conjunctivitis or pneumonia at birth. Having Chlamydia, or any other sexually transmitted disease, increases a woman’s susceptibility of acquiring additional STD infections, which may include HIV. Using blood or urine tests, physicians make a positive diagnosis. Azithromycin or doxycycline are the antibiotics that physicians prescribe for eliminating the infection. Retesting three to six months after treatment indicates whether treatment completely eradicated the bacterial infection. Once diagnosed, women must also inform all of their sexual partners. When partners undergo treatment, the likelihood of reinfection diminishes.

Chlamydia Treatment

Though simple to diagnose and treat, researchers believe many women go untreated and unprotected. Data collected nationwide from 2006 to 2008 indicates that only 38 percent of sexually active women take the time for adequate screening. Studies also suggest that certain female demographics obtain diagnosis and treatment more often than others. Women from the ages of 20 to 25 represented 42 percent of the women regularly tested. Black women obtained testing 55 percent of the time. Women who acknowledged having multiple sexual partners acquired testing 47 percent of the time.

Research indicates that though many women obtain initial testing, many do not acquire retesting after treatment. A study coordinated by an independent, non-profit organization known as Cicatelli Associates surveyed laboratory reports on over 63,000 men and women residing in the New York, New Jersey and U.S. Virgin Islands. Out of the extensive number of people who obtained initial testing, only 21 percent of the women took the time to return to health care providers and acquire retesting following Chlamydia treatment.