First year college students under the age of 20 were almost 70 percent more likely to test positive for chlamydia than students aged between 20 and 24 years of age. These worrying findings were presented by Adelbert James of Emory University at the 2006 National STD Prevention Conference.
The screenings for chlamydia were conducted by student health centers at 10 colleges in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. The institutes involved were predominantly black colleges, and the majority of participants were African American (80 percent), with more than half of the students screened being female (57 percent).
Chlamydia infection in all students tested was 10 percent, while prevalence among the freshmen tested was 13 percent. Dr. James said it was critical for student health centers to provide chlamydia screening and treatment services. "The CDC recommends that women under the age of 25 who are sexually active and engage in unprotected sex be tested for chlamydia," he said. "This is very important, because chlamydia causes ectopic pregnancies and infertility in young women; it is asymptomatic in 80 percent of women and 50 percent of men. It's especially important for college students, many of whom exhibit high risk sexual behavior and don't use condoms very often."
Usually, student health centers only provide chlamydia testing and treatment to students with symptoms of the disease. "These findings underscore the importance of providing chlamydia education, screening and testing services to all students, with efforts targeting freshmen, in particular," Dr. James said. "Since our initial findings, a few colleges have begun routine screening for chlamydia." Dr. James added that ideally, annual monitoring on college campuses should be expanded, and possibly begin measuring prevalence at the start of the school year, rather than in the spring.
Source: Emory University Health Sciences Center