Growing STD/STI epidemic in Adolescents

Sabree Primus

Did you know there are over 20 million STD cases annually in the United States? If you found that shocking, more than half of those cases are young adults ages 15-24 years old. There is increasing evidence proving there is a growing STD/STI epidemic in young adults.

According to a study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, STI have been on the rise in the United States since 2018. These infections are most commonly found in adolescents ages 15-24. This study found that 1 in 4 sexually active females have an STI, most commonly CT or HPV (See Table 1 for reference). Researchers believe adolescents are specifically at risk because of both behavioral and biological reasons. Behaviorally young adults ages 15-24 are more likely to engage in high-risk sexual activity. That includes having sex without protection and/or having multiple sex partners simultaneously. However, at the adolescent stage, the prefrontal complex, responsible for executive function, is not fully developed. Similar to toddlers that touch a hot stove, they simply don’t know better and are still learning at the adolescent stage. It was also found that adolescents are less likely than adults  to use health services and have less access to them.

(Condom photo / credit Google)

Research shows that STD in adolescents  is a major public health problem in the United States. According to the research “ Of the top 10 reported diseases in 1995 in the U.S, five are STDs.” There are approximately 12 million new cases of STds annually, 3 million fo them belong to teenagers alone. STDs are a threat to Ameircans health nationally, and need national action. If there were interventions on a community level, we would see a huge decline in STDs. Many adolescents are simply clueless on the subject of STD and preventing them. It is constantly overshadowed by more prominent diseases; however, if left in its current state it will worsen.

(Percentage of sexually transmitted infections in youth and adults / credit Google)

In a 2019 study done at Columbia University, studies found “Since 2003, syphilis is up 76 percent, and gonorrhea is up 67 percent.” Health experts attended an adolescent health symposium, and found that STDs are on the rise, and young adults have the highest risk of acquiring them. In the symposium the professionals discussed prevention through prep. Statistics show that in 2017, there were approximately 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. STD Prevention methods are discussed including, condoms, and regular testing protocols.

Global organization called “Do Something” includes millions of young people making a positive change. In hopes to enlighten young adults, they published 11 facts regarding teens and STDs. Research says, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are more than 110 million STIs among men and women in the US. This includes both new and existing infections.” That number is astronomically high compared to the number of cases the US gets annually. Another key fact is  “The US has the highest rate of STD infection in the industrialized world.” 

(Proportion of new STIs / credit Google)

Mayo clinic is a non profit American medical center, located in Rochester, MN. On their website they offer in-depth information on STDs including, symptoms, ways or prevention, and causes. The list of symptoms cover everything from painful urination to a rash, encouraging anyone who experiences any of those symptoms to get tested. For those who are in need, they are able to book an appointment straight from the website. This information includes what complications can arise from a non treated STD/STI. It provides a well rounded overview of everything one needs to know about STD/STI. 

Works Cited

“Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Stds).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 21 Sept. 2021, 

“11 Facts about Teens and Stds.”, 

“Why Are So Many Teens Getting Stds?” Search the Website, 12 Apr. 2019, 

“The Hidden Epidemic.” Google Books, Google, 

Shannon, Chelsea L, and Jeffrey D Klausner. “The Growing Epidemic of Sexually Transmitted Infections in Adolescents: A Neglected Population.” Current Opinion in Pediatrics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2018, 

Leave a Reply