Chlamydia Screenings Need a Boost

Chlamydia testing rates too low among young women and teen girls says CDC

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Chlamydia is the most common and among the most easily treated sexually transmitted diseases, but barely over a third of sexually active women are screened for it each year.

All sexually active women aged 25 and under should be screened for chlamydia every year, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But a recent CDC report reveals that only 38 percent do so.

"Sexually active women under 25 need annual chlamydia testing."

Researchers from the CDC looked at rates of chlamydia testing among American females aged 15 to 25. They used data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth, a nationally representative household survey in which the girls and women self-reported their testing rates.

Those who reported most frequently getting tested were African-American women and women who were uninsured, receiving public insurance such as Medicaid or had multiple partners - all of which are risk factors for chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“This new research makes it clear that we are missing too many opportunities to protect young women from health consequences that can last a lifetime,” said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

“Annual chlamydia screening can protect young women’s reproductive health now and safeguard it for the future.”

A person can have chlamydia yet show no symptoms, so the risks of not getting screened are high if a person's condition is undetected and untreated. Untreated chlamydia can cause chronic pelvic pain, infertility and ectopic pregnancy, a potentially fatal condition in which a fertilized egg begins growing in a woman's fallopian tubes instead of in the uterus.

Those who do get diagnosed and treated with chlamydia should be retested three months later to ensure they have not been reinfected or that they can be treated again with antibiotics.

The CDC, however, found that only 14 percent of men and 22 percent of women were retested within one to six months, based on data on 60,000 men and women who tested positive for chlamydia between 2007 and 2009.

Of those retested, a quarter of the men and a little over a sixth of the women tested positive.

“It is critical that health care providers are not only aware of the importance of testing sexually active young women every year for chlamydia infections, but also of retesting anyone who is diagnosed,” said Gail Bolan, M.D., director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.

“Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics, and retesting plays a vital role in preventing serious future health consequences,” Bolan said.

The study was presented March 13 at the National STD Prevention Conference in Minneapolis.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 14, 2012
Last Updated:
January 2, 2014