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Despite advances with antibiotic therapies and increased public attention to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, sexually transmitted diseases remain a major public health problem of epidemic proportions in the United States. The emergence of new pathogens and clinical syndromes has increased the complexity of the situation. Incurable conditions and asymptomatic disease states during an era of constrained public resources and deficient public awareness further heighten and compound the devastating consequences of sexually transmitted disease. The provision of comprehensive disease prevention, education and clinical services is an important and complicated dimension. Sexually transmitted'diseases are responsible for considerable morbidity and substantial mortality, particularly among young women. This article provides an overview of the epidemic in financial and human terms, with a discussion of eight major pathogens from an epidemiological, clinical and educational - counseling perspective.