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For Release: April 13, 2010
Contact:  Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
(405) 271-5601

STDs Impact Oklahoma’s Teens, Females and African Americans

Approximately 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur every year in the United States. About 1 in 2 sexually active young people will get an STD by age 25 – and most won’t know they have it. In Oklahoma, STDs mirror the national epidemic, with those in the 15 to 24 age group having the highest rates of infection. April is National Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Awareness Month and Oklahoma joins the nation in raising awareness about this ongoing epidemic. 

In 2008, there were 14,757 reported cases of chlamydia in Oklahoma with the majority of those cases in females (75 percent). Oklahoma ranked 20th out of 50 states for reported chlamydial infection in 2008 with a rate of 405 per 100,000 population. 

“Up to 70 percent of females who have chlamydia have no symptoms,” said Debbie Purton, RN, MPH, acting chief of the HIV/STD Service at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH). “That’s why we recommend that all sexually active women 24 years of age and younger be screened for chlamydia.”

Since 1998, gonorrhea rates in Oklahoma have been relatively stable with a 7 percent increase from 2007 to 2008.  In 2008, there were 5,207 reported cases of gonorrhea in Oklahoma with the majority being female (57 percent). Oklahoma ranked 11th out of 50 states for reported gonorrhea infection in 2008 with a rate of 143 per 100,000 population.

Purton added, “Both rates and consequences of chlamydia and gonorrhea are far more severe among women than men, and as a result of these infections, women can suffer long-lasting effects from the damage to their bodies, and that damage can ultimately prevent them from being able to have children.”

In 2009, the OSDH identified an outbreak of syphilis occurring among teenagers younger than age 18 in the central Oklahoma area. This was alarming because syphilis is an STD most often seen in older age groups and it can have significant health outcomes if undiagnosed and untreated. 

In addition to affecting Oklahoma’s youth, racial and ethnic disparities exist in African Americans who have the highest rates by population of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. 

Consistent condom use is one effective way to prevent becoming infected with STDs. Once infected, STD screening and early diagnosis is vital to prevent serious health consequences and increased transmission. Screening is particularly important since many STDs often have no signs or symptoms. County health departments have STD clinics that test for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. They also offer HIV testing since infection with other STDs increases the risk for acquiring HIV.  For more information, contact your local clinic.

More information about STD Awareness Month is available at http://www.cdcnpin.org/stdawareness/ or http://www.cdc.gov/ or for local information, contact the OSDH HIV/STD Service, Sally Bouse-Pittser (405) 271-4636.

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