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Nationally Representative Study Reveals Missed HIV and STD Screening Opportunities for Young, High-Risk Women Seeking Contraceptive Services

March 11, 2008

A nationally representative study of contraceptive and STD/HIV services received by sexually active young women in the United States indicates that the majority receive either contraceptive services or STD/HIV services, but few receive both. The study also reveals that in a subset of young women at highest risk for STD/HIV infection, many are receiving contraceptive services but are not being screened for STDs or HIV.

Led by Sherry Farr, CDC researchers examined data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, a national survey of adults aged 15-44. In the study, Farr and colleagues analyzed data on a subset of 1,328 unmarried, sexually active young women aged 15-24. The survey asked these young women about the contraceptive and STD/HIV services (counseling, testing, or treatment) they had received during the previous year. Researchers weighted the data to estimate the national prevalence of young women who received such services in the United States.

The study found that 82 percent of women in the U.S. received either contraceptive or STD/HIV services, but only 39 percent received both. Younger women (aged 15-22) were more likely to receive both types of services (41%) than women aged 23-24 (32%). Overall, women were almost twice as likely to receive contraceptive services as STD/HIV services (79% vs. 42%). Almost one in five sexually active women (18%) received neither contraceptive nor STD/HIV services.

Of the 38 percent of women who reported receiving contraceptive services associated with having unprotected sex (e.g., pregnancy testing or a prescription for emergency contraception), only slightly more than one-third of them (38%) received STD/HIV services. This suggests that the majority of young women most in need of STD/HIV counseling, testing, or treatment are not being reached with necessary services.

According to the study, women accessed about half (51%) of all STD and contraceptive services at doctors' offices, 20 percent at community clinics, and 16 percent at family planning clinics.

Farr and colleagues note that the study underscores the urgent need for greater integration of contraceptive and STD/HIV services in order to expand STD/HIV prevention opportunities among all sexually active young women seeking reproductive or other sexual health services.

Poster Abstract P125 -- Integration of Contraceptive and STD/HIV Services for Young Women in the United States. In: 2008 National STD Prevention Conference, Chicago, Ill., March 10-13, 2008.

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