Background: Because adolescents rely heavily on emergency services for health care, a pediatric emergency department (PED) visit may be their only opportunity for sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening. The primary objectives of this study were to determine the proportion of Neisseria gonorrheae (GC) and Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) infections in asymptomatic PED adolescents and patient-perceived barriers to STI screening.
Methods: A convenience sample of patients aged 14 to 21 years presenting to an urban PED with nongenitourinary complaints was offered screening for GC and CT. Regardless of declining or accepting screening, all were asked to complete a questionnaire designed to identify barriers to screening.
Results: Sixty-eight percent of those approached participated (n = 719). Those who agreed to STI screening were more likely to be nonwhite (61.4% vs. 38.6%, P = 0.001) and publically insured (63.3%) versus privately insured (29.3%) or no insurance (7.58%). Four hundred three (56%) participants provided urine samples, and of those, 40 (9.9%) were positive for an STI. Controlling for other demographics, race was a significant predictor, with the odds of testing positive for nonwhite participants 5.90 times that of white participants. Patients who refused testing were more likely to report not engaging in sexual activity (54.3% vs. 42.4%, P = 0.009) and less likely to perceive that they were at risk for STIs.
Conclusions: There are high proportions of GC and CT among asymptomatic adolescents visiting an academic urban PED. A universal PED STI screening program may be an important component of STI reduction initiatives, especially among adolescents who do not perceive that they are at risk and may not receive testing elsewhere.