At a free drop-in clinic for sexually transmitted disease screening in Pine Lawn, just north of St. Louis, people wait outside the door before the doors open at 8 a.m. That’s because the spots usually fill up in about an hour.
“I’d be more concerned if it didn’t fill up,” said Dr. Fred Echols, director of communicable disease for the St. Louis Department of Public Health. “I definitely think we’re moving the needle.”
Three common STDs are on the rise in the St. Louis area, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest annual release of statistics counted more than 15,000 diagnosed cases of chlamydia, 3,600 cases of gonorrhea, and about 150 cases of syphilis in the bi-state metro region.
Sometimes the infections don’t have symptoms, but all three STDs are easily cured and do not have lasting effects if caught early.
Echols, who has helped lead a St. Louis and St. Louis County public awareness campaign called Get Tested STL, said the higher numbers could also mean that more people are getting tested.
“We expected the numbers to go up — one, because we’ve done a lot more community outreach,” Echols said. “A lot of individuals aren’t aware that there are free or reduced cost testing and treatment services available in the St. Louis area.”
The campaign organized free testing events, as well as condom distribution in bars and hair salons. Still, Echols said, there's clearly a ways to go.
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