Iowa’s seeing little change in the rate of sexually-transmitted diseases. The state public health department’s John Katz says while figures aren’t in yet for all of 2002, there was only a slight increase in the number of STD’s and that was likely accounted for by reporting improvements. The technology used to diagnose the disease has improved and is now much better able to correctly catch a case of the disease. Katz thinks far too many people incorrectly underestimate the number of all-clear test results that are in error. Last year the state recorded 1,424 reported cases of gonorrhea and 5,716 of chlamydia. The state does not track cases of herpes or genital warts even though those also are sexually transmitted, because there isn’t time or staff for all the record-keeping. Katz says it’s a significant public-health concern and there are patterns to be seen in STD infections. The diseases affect young people, with 80-percent of the cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia turning up in people 14 through 30 years of age, and those young people as well as minorities make up the agency’s “target groups.” The state had only eleven cases of syphilis last year, just five of those new infections. And while it’s tracked AIDS for years, only since 1998 did the state track HIV cases also.Since the beginning in the early 80s the state has counted in all 1,460 AIDS cases, and of those 807 are now dead. Since 1998 there have been a total of 437 HIV cases. While there are sporadic outbreaks of one disease or another from time to time, Katz says there’s been no real change in the last five years. He says Iowa’s a “low-morbidity” state but if you have unprotected sex with enough people, it’s almost a given that you’ll catch one of the diseases he monitors.
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