CDC: ‘Alarming’ increase in STDs last year nationally, locally

1.4 million people were diagnosed with chlamydia last year

It’s not something people usually like to talk about, but the number of sexually transmitted diseases increased dramatically last year, both nationally and locally.

A survey earlier this year showed about 30 percent of students at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse admitted to testing positive for an STD within the last six months, the national average on college campuses is 50 percent.

Only three sexually transmitted diseases are nationally reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. All three saw an increase in the number of cases nationwide and locally.

According to the latest report from the CDC, in 2014 approximately 1.4 million cases of chlamydia were reported, which is “the highest number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to CDC.”

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Wellness Coordinator Kate Noelke, isn’t surprised by the increase.

“Even for our students who advocate for using barrier methods when they’re engaging in intimacy with partners, they’ll say things like, ‘I always use a condom except for with this partner,’ or ‘Except for that one time,'” Noelke said.

Of the nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections each year, half are among those ages 15 to 24, according to the report.

“I think it’s because at that age they are probably looking for partners and they are having multiple partners,” Mai Chor Lee, a health educator with La Crosse County, said.

The CDC reports the number of chlamydia cases increased 2.8 percent from 2013 to 2014, while gonorrhea was up 5.1 percent and syphilis, which has three stages, increased 15.1 percent for its most infectious stages.

Lee said La Crosse County is seeing the same trends, especially with chlamydia. In 2013, 410 cases of the infection were reported in the county, 485 in 2014 and already about 450 reported cases in 2015.

“So definitely, I could see that we’re getting closer to 500 by the end of the year,” Lee said.

At UW-L, walk-in STD testing has been implemented at the Student Health Center. Noelke said though it might seem simple it could have a big impact on helping prevent the spread of STDs on campus.

“Especially for young males, if you have to call and say, ‘I need a test because I had unprotected sex,’ you’re much less likely to get tested,” Noelke said. “They can just go in, they have a test done, they get a call back if follow-up is needed. There’s no embarrassing phone call to make. They just walk right in and it’s right on campus.”

Lee said anyone under the age of 25, especially women and those with multiple partners, should be getting tested for an STD annually. She said there are some STDs that don’t show symptoms, so people may not know they are infected unless tested.

The CDC reports each of the three infections is a potential threat to an individual’s short- and long-term health and well-being. It said STDs can lead to severe reproductive health complications such as infertility.