Sex infections still growing in U.S., says CDC

Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:39am EST
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American squeamishness about talking about sex has helped keep common sexually transmitted infections far too common, especially among vulnerable teens, U.S. researchers reported Monday.

Latest statistics on chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis show the three highly treatable infections continue to spread in the United States.

"Chlamydia and gonorrhea are stable at unacceptably high levels and syphilis is resurgent after almost being eliminated," said John Douglas, director of the division of sexually transmitted diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We have among the highest rates of STDs of any developed country in the world," Douglas added in a telephone interview.

The administration of President Barack Obama has signaled a willingness to move away from so-called abstinence-only sex education approaches promoted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, and conservative state and local governments.

Several studies have shown such approaches do not work well and that it is better to encourage abstinence while also offering children and teens information about how to protect themselves from diseases as well as pregnancy.

"We haven't been promoting the full battery of messages," Douglas said. "We have been sending people out with one seatbelt in the whole car."

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<p>A couple kisses in a file photo. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside</p>