Sexually Transmitted Diseases "Epidemic" in Minnesota
May 7, 2003
New cases of STDs in Minnesota jumped 19 percent last year in what state health officials are calling an epidemic. On Monday, the Health Department reported 13,304 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis last year, up from 11,158 cases in 2001. After declining in the early 1990s, STD rates have risen in the past five years, and last year's overall increase was the largest in years. "This is an epidemic," said state epidemiologist Dr. Harry Hull.
Cases of chlamydia rose 21 percent; gonorrhea cases rose 13 percent; and cases of syphilis rose 67 percent. In a trend that has been evident for years, minority groups had much higher STD rates than whites. Among blacks there were 1,444 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 in 2002, compared to 584 cases per 100,000 among Hispanics and 97 for whites. Officials say another trend is the apparent lack of safe sex practices among young people -- most of the 10,107 chlamydia cases and 3,049 cases of gonorrhea occurred in 15- to 24-year-olds. Recent syphilis increases were documented almost exclusively among gay men.
Officials attribute about one-third of the total increase to better reporting. The tracking of STDs has improved since health officials prodded doctors last year to comply with a law requiring them to report the infections. Reminder letters to physicians resulted in 631 additional chlamydia and 146 gonorrhea cases, according to the report. "The message is, if you look for it, you will find it," said Nicoline Tablun, a Health Department epidemiologist.
Other health care workers say the reasons for the rising rates are varied and hard to quantify. Howard Ellis, of the community health organization Turning Point, said increasing homelessness and drug addiction are contributing to the rates. According to Dr. Peter D'Ascoli, medical director for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota, young people are confused by the mixed messages they hear about sex and birth control.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul)
05.06.03; Josephine Marcotty
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.