Print this page    •   Back to Web version of article

Medical News
Sex History Doesn't Always Match STD Status

January 7, 2011

A new study finds significant discrepancy between young people's self-reported sexual experience and their STD status, potentially suggesting changes in how this population is screened for the infections.

Jessica McDermott Sales, PhD, of Emory University, and colleagues examined wave three of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which occurred in 2002, limiting their analysis to 14,012 young adults (mean age 22) who completed an audio computer-assisted survey and provided a urine sample for STD testing. NLSAH began in 1994 when the participants were in grades seven through 12.

Nucleic acid amplification testing was used to detect the presence of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. Of participants, 79.7 percent reported having had sex in the previous year, and 6 percent tested positive for one of the STDs. Among those with a positive test, 10.5 percent reported being sexually abstinent in the past year, with half of those reporting never having had penile/vaginal contact.

The study's limitations included the absence of a baseline measure of STD status, the use of only urine samples, the possibility of false-positives and false-negatives in testing, and the chance of recall bias. "Singly, or more likely, a combination of limitations may partly account for the observed discrepancy between young adults' positive STD status and self-reported abstinence," the team noted.

According to the study, "Acquiring an STD is not only a function of unprotected sexual intercourse, but also reflects the prevalence of STDs in young adults' sociosexual network, risk of sex partners (i.e., currency), and frequency and proficiency of correct condom use."

"From a clinical standpoint, the discrepancies between STD positivity and self-reported sexual behavior observed in this nationally representative sample suggest that routine STD screening may be beneficial and necessary to reduce STD morbidity among young adults," said the researchers.

"Our findings reveal that if pediatricians and adolescent medicine physicians do not test all young people, there are likely a substantial number of missed cases of STDs that will go undiagnosed, untreated, and spread to future sex partners," Sales and colleagues concluded.

The study, "Association Between Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Young Adults' Self-Reported Abstinence," was published early online in Pediatrics (2011;doi:10.1542/peds.2009-0892).

Back to other news for January 2011

Excerpted from:
MedPage Today
01.03.2011; Todd Neale

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

General Disclaimer: is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.