High STD Rates Seen in Young Drug Users

Women are especially at risk for herpes and syphilis, researchers found

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THURSDAY, June 23, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Young drug users have high rates of the sexually transmitted diseases herpes simplex virus 2 and syphilis, according to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and other institutions.

The study of 543 heroin, cocaine and crack users, aged 18 to 30, in Baltimore found no difference in infection rates between injection and noninjection drug users, but did find that young female drug users had much higher infection rates than young male drug users. Only a few of the infected people were aware of their condition.

The findings appear in the June issue of Sexually Transmitted Infections.

"We found a high rate of sexually transmitted infections among the injection and noninjection drug users we recruited, which indicates the extent of sexual risk behaviors among both of these populations. Noninjection heroin and/or crack users are rarely the target of sexual or drug risk reduction interventions. Sexually transmitted infection prevention and treatment programs need to target drug users," corresponding author Susan G. Sherman, an assistant professor in the epidemiology department at Bloomberg, said in a prepared statement.

"The sexual behavior of both injection drug users and noninjection drug users is an important public health issue. Intervention and outreach programs for young drug users should offer sexually transmitted infection testing and education, as well as promote safe-sex messages in order to decrease the further spread of all sexually transmitted infections," Sherman said.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about screening and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, news release, June 2005

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