Updated with full data tables at 2:09 p.m. (see below)
Rates of three sexually transmitted diseases are up in the St. Louis area, according to an annual report released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(Graphs with the data discussed here can be seen in the document posted below)
Although gonorrhea rates had been declining in our region since 2006, Washington University infectious disease expert Dr. Bradley Stoner says St. Louis City remains one of the nation's gonorrhea "hot spots." "We’re third in the nation in terms of per capita rates," Stoner said.
According to the St. Louis City Department of Health, St. Louis also has high per capita rates of Chlamydia: second in the nation. “The CDC this year in this report did not list St. Louis City because the total number of cases is below their threshold for reporting,” Stoner said.
According to the CDC report, the apparent increase in Chlamydia nationwide over the past 20 years is due to expanded screening efforts. However, the majority of infections still go undiagnosed.
St. Louis City Department of Health director Pam Walker says that 90 percent of Chlamydia and gonorrhea infections reported in St. Louis are in African Americans between the ages of 15 and 24.
Walker says St. Louis has also seen a troubling increase in syphilis in young men who have sex with men, especially those who are already HIV-positive.
"What we’re finding is that they are hooking up with people who are also infected with HIV," Walker said. "And then they feel that they can have sex without a condom because they won’t be spreading HIV, but what they are spreading is syphilis."
Nationwide, rates of syphilis are down for the first time in a decade but have increased significantly over the past five years in young black men.
Dr. Bradley Stoner says when it comes to STDs, young people in general are suffering from what he calls “prevention fatigue.”
“Young people have heard us talking about condoms and protection for a long time, and yet we continue to see elevated rates of sexually transmitted diseases…that are potentially preventable through consistent and correct use of condoms,” Stoner said.
Stoner says as a community, we need to do a better job of promoting condom use and STD testing and treatment.
Left untreated, all three STDs can lead to serious health conditions. Both gonorrhea and Chlamydia can cause infertility, and syphilis can cause dementia, paralysis and even death. Treatment for all three diseases is a dose of antibiotics.
Pam Walker asks that private providers report cases to the city health department as quickly as possible. "So that we can contact [patients] and find out who their partners are, and make sure that the partners get treated as well."
To expand the charts below for a full-screen view, click on the first button in the bottom toolbar on the left (rectangle and arrow).