Sexually Transmitted Infections, by Age Group

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Learn More About Teen Sexual Health

Measures of Teen Sexual Health on
On, indicators of teen sexual health include rates and counts of sexually transmitted infections (i.e., chlamydia and gonorrhea), by age groupgender, and race/ethnicity, among young people ages 10-19; and the percentage of teens ages 14-17 who report that they have not had sex.
Teen Sexual Health
Intimate Partner Violence
Health Care
Youth Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use
Teen Births
Why This Topic Is Important
There is much pressure, biological and social, for young people to be sexually active, yet sexual activity can have serious negative consequences, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Even though youth ages 15-24 represent only 25% of the sexually active population in the U.S., they account for almost half of the 19 million new STI cases each year and are at increased risk for HIV infections (1). Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most frequently reported bacterial STIs in the U.S.; rates are highest among young people (ages 15-24) and some racial/ethnic minority populations (2). If untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and, in the long term, to infertility and adverse pregnancy outcomes (1, 2).

Many teens lack the information and cognitive skills needed to make informed decisions about sexual activity and how to prevent STIs (1). Once an STI is contracted, detection and treatment can be difficult because the majority of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases in women are asymptomatic (2). For this reason, education and routine screening are crucial (2, 3).

STIs also have serious economic consequences. In 2013, the CDC estimated that, overall, STIs cost the U.S. health care system about $16 billion annually (3).
For more information on teen sexual health, see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Guttmacher Institute. (2014). American teens’ sexual and reproductive health (Fact Sheet). Retrieved from:

2.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Sexually transmitted disease surveillance 2013. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from:

3.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Incidence, prevalence, and cost of sexually transmitted infections in the United States (CDC Fact Sheet). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
About 82% of California teens ages 14-17 reported in 2011-12 that they had not had sex, similar to previous years. These data come from the California Health Interview Survey, and should be considered estimates.

Some teens who engage in sexual activity contract infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. While those infections sometimes go unreported, many of them are documented. In California, chlamydia rates increased steadily between 2000 and 2008, but have begun to decline in recent years. Rates per 100,000 youth ages 10-19 have decreased from 815.0 in 2008 to 684.4 in 2014. The state’s rate of gonorrhea infection among teens, which is lower than the chlamydia rate, fluctuated over the last decade; it was 112.1 per 100,000 in 2014. Statewide and in most counties, data from 2014 and previous years show that more females are diagnosed with gonorrhea and chlamydia than males. Similarly, teens ages 15-19 have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections than youth ages 10-14, and African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino youth have higher rates of infection than White and Asian/Pacific Islander youth.


Policy Implications
Teens need accurate information and access to health care to make safe, informed choices about sexual activity, and to receive appropriate care. While sex education is not required (beyond HIV/AIDS prevention, which has been required since 1992), California law prevents withholding information about contraception if sex education is offered in schools, and mandates that the facts are medically accurate and free of gender, racial, and ethnic bias (1). Families also play an important role in teen sexual health; teens who grow up in stable families with good parent-child relationships (including communication about sex) are more likely to delay sexual intercourse and to use contraception (2).

California youth have the right to talk to their doctor confidentially about sexual health (with limitations regarding sexual assault and statutory rape), but some teens, doctors, and parents/guardians may not fully understand those rights (3). In addition, insurance coding and reimbursement is a challenge to confidentiality as it can reveal the nature of the doctor visit to parents or guardians.

According to research and subject experts, policy options to improve teen sexual health include:
  • Informing health care providers and youth about state confidentiality laws concerning sexual health and contraception (3)
  • Requiring comprehensive health education in schools, including specific skills-based information about reproductive health, including STD-prevention, and contraception (4)
  • Expanding insurance reimbursement to cover comprehensive psychosocial assessments (often known as the HEEADSSS exam) as a separate service in order to ensure that sexuality and other important components of adolescents' histories are discussed (5)
  • Adapting public health and reimbursement policies to encourage broader screening of youth for chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases (6)
  • Exploring technologically innovative methods (such as text messages and online interactives) of communicating sexual health education as they offer confidentiality and are consistent with adolescents’ new-media communications style (7)
  • Supporting school-based health centers to ensure accessible preventive and ongoing services for teens (8)
For more policy ideas and research on this topic, see’s Research & Links section, or visit The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, or the Guttmacher Institute. Also see Policy Implications on under Teen Births, Dating and Domestic Violence, and Health Care.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  California Department of Education. (2014). Comprehensive sexual health & HIV/AIDS instruction: Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from:

2.  Markham, C. M., et al. (2010). Connectedness as a predictor of sexual and reproductive health outcomes for youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46(Suppl. 3), S23-S41. Retrieved from:

3.  Duplessis, V., et al. (2010). Understanding confidentiality and minor consent in California (2nd ed.). Adolescent Health Working Group and California Adolescent Health Collaborative. Retrieved from:

4.  Kirby, D. (2011). Sex education: Access and impact on sexual behavior of young people. Paper presented at the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Adolescents, Youth and Development. Retrieved from:

5.  Marcell, A. V., et al. (2011). Male adolescent sexual and reproductive health care. Pediatrics, 128(6), e1658-e1676. Retrieved from:

6.  Adams, S. H., et al. (2009). Adolescent preventive services: Rates and disparities in preventive health topics covered during routine medical care in a California sample. Journal of Adolescent Health, 44(6), 536-545. Retrieved from:

7.  Levine, D. (2011). Using technology, new media, and mobile for sexual and reproductive health. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 8(1), 18-26. Retrieved from:

8.  Ethier, K. A., et al. (2011). School-based health center access, reproductive health care, and contraceptive use among sexually experienced high school students. Journal of Adolescent Health 48(6), 562-565. Retrieved from:
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Teen Sexual Health