“If you look at the overall numbers, the biggest impact are from two diseases,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “One is HIV and the other is HPV.” Fielding said the data also highlights the “hidden epidemic” of chlamydia and gonorrhea. “This disproportionately affects young people and has a lot of secondary effects,” Fielding said. “For some women, chlamydia leads to infertility.” From 2000 to 2005 in Los Angeles County, the number of reported cases of gonorrhea jumped from 7,199 to 10,494. Syphilis more than tripled from 336 to 1,213, and chlamydia increased from 30,546 to 38,862. “But HIV is really what we are most concerned about,” said Dr. Peter Kerndt, director of the county’s Sexually Transmitted Disease Program. “We know the rates of HIV in the younger age groups and among minorities are increasing. That’s where the epidemic is growing the fastest.” Kerndt noted several reasons for the increases, including better screening by youths covered under managed-care insurance plans. Also, today’s youths generally are more sexually active, sometimes have multiple sexual partners and simultaneously place themselves at higher risk by using drugs and alcohol, Kerndt said. Health officials are also concerned about recent increases in different types of reported STDs among youth, including HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Although HIV became a reportable disease last year, no statistics are currently available, and HPV is not a reportable disease. But health officials are especially concerned about HPV, noting that more than 90 percent of people who have the disease have no symptoms. Although research suggests that most immune systems will eliminate HPV infection within a year or two, about 10 percent of people remain infected for much longer, possibly for life. A vaccine that now protects against four HPV types – which cause about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and 90 percent of genital warts – is now approved for females ages 11 to 26. “If you have private insurance, you can be vaccinated by your private physician,” Kerndt said. “If they are eligible, they can receive vaccines in publicly funded clinics.” About half of hepatitis B cases are also sexually transmitted. Infected people often have no symptoms, but it can lead to fatal liver disease. A vaccine is also available for hepatitis B. “If youth are having sex, they should make sure they have protection,” Fielding said. “Condoms, for most of these diseases but not all, are the first line of protection.” email@example.comWant local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas CityThe findings contrast sharply with previous data based on cases reported among youths ages 15 to 24 – with researchers saying their findings are nearly 10 times higher. Researchers used statistic estimation methods recently developed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to estimate the number of new cases and associated medical costs for eight major STDs. “This epidemic is like an iceberg – what you see is just a small part of what you have,” said Petra Jerman, a research scientist at the Oakland-based Public Health Institute’s Center for Research and Adolescent Health. “The estimated number of new cases and their associated costs illustrate that the STD epidemic among California youth remains largely hidden.” The report comes as health officials have expressed growing concerns about serious complications STDs can cause. The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is linked to cervical and anal cancer. Other STDs can increase the chance of contracting HIV by two to six times. By Troy Anderson STAFF WRITER More than 1 million youths in California have sexually transmitted diseases that cost the state more than $1 billion a year in treatment, according to a study to be released today. And nearly one- third of all the cases – 361,876 – are in Los Angeles County at an annual cost of $390million, according to the study by the Public Health Institute.