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Adolescents (ages 15-19) and young adults (ages 20-24) are at much higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than are older adults. Within these age groups, reported rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are significantly higher among non-Hispanic Black youth than youth of all other reported racial/ethnic categories. Rates of STDs among Hispanic adolescents and young adults are about twice those of non-Hispanic Whites.

Chlamydia continues to be the most common STD in adolescents and young adults, with a rate of 1,488 cases per 100,000 adolescents and 1,619 per 100,000 young adults. Gonorrhea followed in prevalence with an overall rate of 476 cases per 100,000 adolescents and 593 cases per 100,000 young adults. Syphilis is less common among young people, with only 1.7 cases per 100,000 adolescents and 4.4 cases per 100,000 young adults in 2002. For each of these diseases, rates are slightly higher among 20- to 24-year-olds than among adolescents.

Although these conditions are treatable with antibiotics, STDs can have serious health consequences. Active infections can increase the likelihood of contracting HIV and untreated STDs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women.

Graph: Sexually Transmitted Disease Among Adolescents and Young Adults, by Age and Race: 2002 [d]