Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may be transmitted during sexual assault. In children, the isolation of a sexually transmitted organism may be the first indication that abuse has occurred. Although the presence of a sexually transmissible agent from a child beyond the neonatal period is suggestive of sexual abuse, exceptions do exist. In this review I discuss the issues of the transmissibility and diagnosis of STDs in the context of child sexual abuse. Rectal or genital infection with Chlamydia trachomatis among young children may be the result of perinatally acquired infection and may persist for as long as 3 years. A major problem with chlamydia testing in the context of suspected sexual abuse in children has been the inappropriate use of non-culture tests. Although the new generation of nucleic acid amplification tests have shown high sensitivity and specificity with genital specimens from adults, data on use of these tests on any site in children are practically non-existent. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) has been identified among children who have been abused and among those who have not been abused. However, many of the methods used to diagnose BV in adults have not been evaluated in children. Recent studies of perinatal infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) have been inconclusive. HPV DNA has been detected at various sites in children who have not been abused. The relation to the development of clinically apparent genital warts is unclear. Although HIV can be acquired through sexual abuse in children, the exact risk to the child and which children should be screened is still controversial.
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