Reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases continue to rise in Iowa, with a 75 percent increase in gonorrhea cases from 2013 to 2016. Preliminary 2016 data show chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis all increased over the previous year, mirroring national trends. Cases of chlamydia in Iowa increased 8 percent, gonorrhea increased 16 percent and infectious syphilis increased by 3 percent. April is Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Awareness Month. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) joins the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in bringing attention to this important public health issue.
Syphilis diagnoses have remained relatively steady in recent years; however, infectious syphilis surged 450 percent between 2011 and 2013 and numbers remain high. Ninety-one percent of infectious cases are diagnosed in men, and of those, 70 percent are in gay men or other men who have sex with men (MSM).
Chlamydia is the most common reportable condition in Iowa, with 13,000 cases reported in the state last year. Seventy percent of the cases were diagnosed in women and 65 percent were in people between the ages of 15 and 24. Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to fertility problems. For some people with gonorrhea, the infection can spread into their blood and lead to life-threatening complications.
Regular testing is important because these infections often occur without early symptoms or with symptoms that can be easily confused with other conditions. Sexually active people should be tested regularly, especially those in the highly-impacted groups. Early detection and treatment of STDs can prevent long-term health problems and reduce transmission to other people. In addition, safer sex practices can reduce the risk of acquiring or transmitting STDs, including the use of condoms, reducing the number of sex partners, mutual monogamy, vaccinations, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV.
IDPH maintains a partner services program in which persons diagnosed with certain STDs can work with a Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) to ensure that anyone who may have been exposed to an infection is connected with recommended testing, treatment, and education on prevention strategies. IDPH also works with Polk, Linn, Scott, and Black Hawk counties for partner services. For more information about IDPH’s STD program, including statistics and resources, visit http://idph.iowa.gov/hivstdhep/std/resources. Testing locations can be found at https://gettested.cdc.gov/.