Each year an estimated 15 million new sexually transmitted infections occur among Americans over the age of 15.
The most common are:
- human papilloma virus (HPV) (5.5 million new infections),
- trichomoniasis (5 million new infections),
- chlamydia (3 million new infections),
- genital herpes (1 million new infections), and
- gonorrhea (650,000 new infections)1.
Syphilis (70,000 new infections per year), sexually transmitted hepatitis (77,000 new infections) and HIV (20,000 new infections) are less common but still occur in significant numbers with devastating consequences1. HIV infection is being spread increasingly to women through heterosexual contact. In 1998, 23% of new AIDS diagnosis and 32% of new HIV infections were reported among women2.
For a female teen in the U.S. today, unprotected sex with an infected partner means her chance of acquiring HIV is 1%, of contracting genital herpes is 30%, and of becoming infected with gonorrhea is 50%.
Over $8.4 billion is spent annually in the United States to treat the short- and long-term consequences of STDs. This is a highly conservative estimate because it includes only medical costs and does not consider lost productivity or the human costs of suffering3. Roughly $4.5 billion is spent to treat HIV and AIDS, and another $1.6 billion is spent treating pre-cancerous cervical lesions and cancer of the cervix caused by HPV. Most of the $2 billion spent on bacterial STDs per year goes to treat the 1.5 million cases of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which has been linked to female infertility3, a significant consequence of STD infection.
In contrast, there are 1.5 million unintended pregnancies in the U.S. per year. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that about one-million teenage women become pregnant each year in the U.S., with 78% of these pregnancies being unplanned.
The United Nations International Conference on Population and Development held in in 1994 in Cairo made remarkable strides toward progress for reproductive health: 180 nations endorsed the Program of Action as the document that would direct their population and development programs for the next 20 years. A review of the Program can be viewed at http://www.agi-usa.org/pubs/ib4.html in an article entitled, "The Cairo Consensus: Challenges for U.S. Policy at Home and Abroad."
Briefly, the Program affirms the central role of families, and asserts that the status and involvement of women is integral to the health and prosperity of families. Throughout the document reference is made to the importance of family planning and adequate health care, including the treatment of reproductive tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases. The Core theme of the Program of Action is this: "Countries agreed that the provision of reproductive health services should be the focus of population initiatives, maintaining that improving the health of women promotes family well being and self-reliance."
Links to websites that address reproductive health issues:
Birth control information
Contraceptive Research and Development Program (CONRAD)
Kaiser Family Foundation
Population Action International
The Alan Guttmacher Institute
The National Asian Women's Health Organization
The National Women's Health Network
1 American Social Health Association (ASHA), Sexually Transmitted Diseases in America: How Many Cases, and at What Cost? Research Triangle Park, NC: ASHA, 1998, Table 2, p.17.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. HIV and AIDS cases reported through December 1998, HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, 1998, Vol. 10, No. 2, Figures 3 and 4, p.13.
3 ASHA, see reference 1, Tables 3 and 4, pp. 24-25.