According to 2018 data from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), sexually transmitted disease (STD) diagnoses continue to increase, with one exception. Preliminary data show 14,695 cases of chlamydia (5.8 percent increase from 2017), 4,839 cases of gonorrhea (28.3 percent increase) and 283 cases of syphilis (1.7 percent decrease) were reported to IDPH in 2018.
Increases in diagnoses of gonorrhea and chlamydia have been reported nationally, as well. It is unclear if the increases are due to increased access to testing, increased transmission or both.
In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported increases in the use of injection drugs, methamphetamine and heroin among persons who have recently acquired syphilis. Data indicate a similar trend in Iowa. The number of individuals diagnosed with these early stages of syphilis who reported having used methamphetamine more than doubled from 2016-2018. These data suggest a connection between drug addiction and STDs.
April is Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) Awareness Month. In addition to correct and consistent use of condoms, IDPH advises regular testing for the prevention and control of STDs. Many STDs cause no symptoms or symptoms that are easily confused with other conditions. Without testing, individuals may remain undiagnosed, untreated and unaware that they are transmitting the infection to others. Early treatment prevents serious, long-term health consequences that otherwise may result from these infections.
For more information about IDPH’s STD program, including resources and statistics, visit http://idph.iowa.gov/hivstdhep/std/resources and https://tracking.idph.iowa.gov/Health/Sexually-Transmitted-Diseases.Testing locations can be found at https://gettested.cdc.gov/.