The Iowa Department of Public Health says the number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the state hit records in 2007. Karen Thompson is the manager of the S-T-D program for the Health Department. Thompson says chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are the three sexually transmitted diseases tracked by the state.
She says Syphilis is at the top of its range for cases and there are also all-time highs for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Department records show a 67% increase in chlamydia cases in the past 10 years, a 19% increase in reported cases of gonorrhea in that same time, and a 52% increase in reported cases of syphilis in the last 10 years.
The majority of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases were in people age 15 to 24 and the majority of syphilis cases in those age 35 to 55. Thompson says the increase in numbers is due in part to better identification of the diseases. Thompson says they’re doing a good job of targeting the places where they might find the infections, and they have more advanced testing. She says there’s also just a large number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases in Iowa and the rest of the country.
Thompson says another part of the problem is that people are failing to take precautions to prevent getting the diseases. "We receive a lot of concern from people that end up being positive or are exposed to S-T-D’s that are surprised by that because they’ve only had one or two sexual encounters, or they’re highly educated or they have a lot of money….," Thompson explains, "they think that S-T-D’s are infections that really only impact certain people, and that’s just not the case."
Thompson says S-T-D’s can have many long-term impacts. She says some S-T-D’s are treatable, but those that are viral can’t be cured, they can treat the symptoms, but cannot cure the disease. Herpes is an example of a life-long disease, and the Human Papilloma Virus is another disease that can be life-long and lead to cervical cancer.
Thompson says the S-T-D’s can impact fertility. Thompson says if a female is infected and unaware of it, there can be some serious problems for the newborn baby. She says this often happens as the early symptoms of S-T-D’s often go unnoticed. Thompson says there needs to be more money put into education and prevention efforts.
Thompson says the federal funding has been cut for a number of years, so there’s been a 15% decrease in funding for S-T-D programs in the last six years. Thompson says there also needs to be a frank discussion of the problem.
"The community needs to be aware that this is an issue, that this can touch anybody, that this in particular is affecting our youth, and we need to speak openly," Thompson says. She says it’s an issue that impacts the entire community. For more information on the 2007 report of sexually transmitted diseases in Iowa, go to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website .