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WASHINGTON, Feb 24 (AFP) - Sexually transmitted diseases mainly affect 15 to 24 year olds in the United States, amounting to nine million cases a year, according to a study released Tuesday.
While the age group accounts for only one quarter of sexually active people, those affected represent half of all cases of STDs.
Human papillomavirus (HPV), trichomoniasis and chlamydia are the three diseases that affect nine in 10 of all new cases of STD infections in the group, US journal Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health said.
"It is not surprising that teens and young adults contract a disproportionate number of infections," noted Sharon Camp of the Alan Guttmacher Institute which financed the study.
"Most young people are sexually active, and many are ill equipped to prevent STDs or seek testing and treatment," Camp said.
New estimates suggest that the direct medical costs associated with a lifetime of treating cases of STD infection diagnosed in young people in 2000 could reach 6.5 billion dollars. Ninety percent of that cost however is due to treatment of HIV/AIDS, and the small percentage of cases that result in cervical abnormalities or genital warts.
The authors of the study, published in the January/February edition of the journal, emphasize prevention and education to cut the future cost of STD infections.
"Investing money today in STD prevention and education could dramatically reduce the incidence of these infections, and thus future treatment costs," the authors said
Adolescents "need realistic sex education that teaches them how to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies," Camp said.
"It is essential to have medically accurate information about condoms and other contraceptive methods, and guidance in how to access appropriate prevention, testing and treatment services."
A number of STD prevention programs in American schools, financed by the public purse and by conservative organizations, try and teach sexual abstinence, without mentioning condoms to prevent disease in the event of sexual relations.
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