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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 15 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases reported each year in the U.S. However, the CDC also estimates that more than 19 million new infections occur each year, meaning too few people are being tested and treated for newly acquired STDs.
The most commonly sexually transmitted disease is chlamydia, which is characterized by a burning sensation during urination and significant pain during intercourse. As many as one in three people afflicted with the condition exhibit no real symptoms, making the spread of the disease even more likely.
If untreated, the infection is much more problematic for women. Chlamydia may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which often causes scarring of the fallopian tubes and infertility. If a woman is infected with the condition while pregnant, there is an increased likelihood of premature labor and delivery. Women with chlamydia are also five times more likely to develop HIV than those without the infection.
Fortunately, chlamydia can easily be treated with antibiotics, although there is no cure. Sexually active people can become infected more than once and often spread the disease to multiple partners.
Due to the fact that the infection frequently comes with no symptoms, the CDC recommends that all sexually active women over the age of 25 have themselves tested on a regular basis.
Although testing is available through clinics and physicians, a recent study has found that the majority of women indicate that they would prefer to utilize an at-home test for chlamydia.
The study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and reported in the April issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that 76 percent of sexually active women would rather test themselves at home than go to a clinic or their own doctor, according to Health Day News.
"The results are important because they show you can increase screening for these infections, which are very common and cause serious health problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy and pelvic inflammatory disease," said lead author Jeffrey Peipert, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis.
He also noted that at-home testing kits are especially important because most young, healthy women use long-acting contraceptives and often avoid routine visits to their gynecologist.
"I think that anything that increases testing for STIs [sexually transmitted infections] in young women is valuable," Cynthia Krause, an assistant clinical professor of gynecology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, told the news source.
However, she added that women should not use at-home test kits as a replacement for regular visits to their doctor. The national survey also found that a similar majority of women would prefer to use at-home tests to diagnose gonorrhea.
Although regular screening for STDs is highly recommended, the CDC reports that less than half of sexually active U.S. women actually undergo routine annual testing.
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