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U.S. News

Utah: Silence No Match for Increasing STD Rate

February 7, 2008

Health officials in Utah are dealing with an STD crisis, mostly among teens and people in their early 20s. Last year, more than 6,400 Utahns were diagnosed with either chlamydia or gonorrhea. While these rates are low relative to other states, they are increasing at an alarming pace. For example, from 2000 to 2005, the state had the nation's fastest-growing gonorrhea case rate.

Public health experts are somewhat confounded by the rise. "We are not at a point right now where we can understand risk behaviors that are happening," said Teresa Garrett, director of public health nursing for the state health department. "We're very busy just trying to get cases treated."

The spike in STDs could lead to a subsequent rise in HIV, experts worry. And, if left untreated, STDs can lead to infertility. "Young people will not be able to have families when they want to," said Melissa Larsen, executive director of Utah's Planned Parenthood Action Council.

Larsen is trying to persuade lawmakers to fund a $350,000 media campaign about STD risks, testing, and treatment. But HB 15, sponsored by Rep. Phil Riesen (D-Holladay), makes no mention of condoms.

Lynn Beltran, STD program manager for the Salt Lake Valley Health Department, said the state’s STD epidemic could be curbed if people talked about it as much as they do other outbreaks. "We had a cryptosporidium outbreak in the valley [swimming pools] this summer ... [People] wanted to know if they were at risk, how they could prevent it,” she noted. “Well, we've been having an STD outbreak for years now but people really don't want to know about it."

Back to other news for February 2008

Adapted from:
The Salt Lake Tribune
02.03.2008; Heather May

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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