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Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases
It's important for people to understand that no matter where they are from or what their financial situation may be, they are at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. However, people from certain areas may be in more need of STD testing services than others, since some parts of the U.S. tend to have a higher rate of these infections and viruses than others. For example, researchers from Ohio State University recently determined that individuals who grew up in poor areas - even if they were not poor themselves - may have a high risk of contracting an STD.
The scientists found that people who lived in a poor area as a teenager may have an increased risk of getting chlamydia in their 20s, compared to those from more affluent areas. This was regardless of whether the people grew up in poor households.
Problem lies in neighborhoods
"There is a long-term effect of living in poverty on the risk for sexually transmitted infections in young adulthood, above and beyond behavioral issues," said Jodi Ford, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of nursing at Ohio State. "We have a lot of interventions trying to address sexual risk behaviors, but few target neighborhood poverty and disadvantage. And this work shows that living in a poor neighborhood can have a long-term effect on health."
To come to their conclusions, the researchers examined more than 11,000 interviews of young people who were part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. These individuals were interviewed first at the age of 15 or so, and by the last interview they were between 18 and 27.
To determine whether the individuals lived in poor areas, the researchers looked at four characteristics U.S. Census data. These were proportionate of households below poverty in the area, total unemployment rate, percentage of households on public assistance and number of female-lead households with children. After examining all of this information, the researchers determined that individuals living in areas with high amounts of poverty were more likely to contract chlamydia in their 20s than those who lived in richer areas.
Interestingly, the researchers discovered that the effect of living in an impoverished area on individuals' chlamydia risk was not impacted by other risk factors like having multiple sexual partners.
The scientists also examined whether risky sexual behaviors or depression that may have occurred while people were transitioning from adolescents to young adulthood could explain this connection, but found that these factors did not appear to do so.
Chlamydia is a serious issue
These findings are important, because they shine a light on a potential risk factor for chlamydia, which is a major problem in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chlamydia is the most prevalent STD in the U.S., affecting more than 2.5 million people each year. While anyone can get this STD, it is believed to be especially common in women. The CDC reports that an estimated one in 15 sexually active women between the ages of 14 and 19 have chlamydia.
Furthermore, this STD is known as a silent infection, since affected individuals often experience mild or no symptoms. However, an untreated infection could make it dangerous or even impossible for a woman to become pregnant, which is why it's so important for women to regularly be checked for this STD.
The CDC recommends that all sexually active women age 25 or younger use STD testing services at least once a year to check for chlamydia. However, the organization notes that any sexually active individual is at risk - so anyone who feels the need should be tested as well.
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