April 16, 2015
New report shows STDs increased by six percent in Minnesota in 2014
More screening, prevention and partner notification recommended by health officials
The total number of reportable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Minnesota increased by 6 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year’s report, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The rise in STDs means that public health departments, clinicians, community organizations, and individuals need to take additional steps to reduce STD rates, as health officials note that STDs can have serious health consequences if left untreated.
Reportable STDs in Minnesota include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. There were 24,599 cases reported in 2014 compared to 23,133 in 2013. Key findings within the report include:
- Chlamydia is the number one reported infectious disease in the state and reached a new high of 19,897 cases in 2014 compared to 18,724 in 2013, a 6 percent increase. The majority of cases occurred in teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. One in three cases occurred in Greater Minnesota, with at least two cases reported in every county in Minnesota.
- Gonorrhea remains the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota with 4,073 cases reported in 2014 compared to 3,872 in 2013, a 5 percent increase. For the first time in the last decade, the rate in males is higher than the rate in females. Over half (51 percent) of all gonorrhea cases occurred among 15 to 24 year-olds and 79 percent of the cases occurred in the Twin Cities metropolitan and suburban areas.
- Syphilis cases increased 17 percent with 629 cases in 2014 compared to 537 in 2013. While new infections continued to be centered within the Twin Cities metropolitan area and among males, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM), the presence of syphilis among females, especially those who are pregnant, continues to be of concern.
The MDH report also shows higher infection rates for chlamydia and gonorrhea among communities of color and American Indians when compared to whites. Higher primary and secondary syphilis infection rates were seen among African American, Asian, and white MSM.
“Knowing these disparities exist, we need to work toward achieving health equity for those communities that have the fewest opportunities to access STD testing and prevention programs due to social, medical, and/or income disadvantages,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. “Expanding our partnerships with our most impacted communities will help to ensure that these services are available, culturally acceptable and therefore being used.”
Testing, diagnosing, and treating these diseases in their early stages are critical, health officials say. Since most STDs don’t show symptoms, it’s important for sexually active people to get tested each year or when involved with a new partner. In addition to yearly exams, health care providers should look for additional opportunities to provide screening. This is especially important for younger patients who often may not be scheduled for a yearly check-up.
Health officials from MDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all health care providers assess the sexual risks among their patients and provide the necessary STD screenings. Health care providers are also responsible for making an effort to get the patient’s sex partners treated.
“Partners of STD infected patients should get tested based on their risk behaviors and treated at the same time to prevent re-infection and spread to others,” said Krissie Guerard, manager of the HIV/STD/TB section at MDH. “Expedited partner therapy (EPT) for chlamydia and gonorrhea can help providers treat the partners of their patients.” EPT allows physicians to provide a prescription or medication through their patients who have tested positive for these two infections. The patient can give those prescriptions or medications to the patient’s sexual partners who are unwilling or unable to get to a clinic.
Ways to prevent getting or spreading STDs include abstaining from sexual contact, limiting the number of sexual partners, always using latex condoms during sex, and not sharing needles for drug use, piercing, or tattooing.
Action steps and resources MDH provides for STD control, monitoring, prevention, testing and treatment include the following:
- The complete Minnesota STD Surveillance Report – 2014; STD fact sheets; information about expedited partner therapy; National STD Awareness Month (April) campaign materials; and a link to CDC’s STD treatment guidelines can be found on the MDH website at Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
- The MDH STD nurse specialist provides education and training on STDs to health care providers and the public by request.
- MDH will be launching a three-month sexually transmitted disease prevention campaign beginning in April reaching teens and young adults in the Twin Cities and American Indians residing on reservations through the cable television network GoodHealthTV®.
- The Minnesota Chlamydia Partnership (MCP), of which MDH is a member, has developed an action plan to reduce and prevent chlamydia in the state: The Minnesota Chlamydia Partnership (MCP).
- The MDH Partner Services Program provides follow-up services to people with HIV, syphilis, and those referred from clinics with untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea and their sexual partners who may need examination and treatment: The STD/HIV Partner Services Program.
For confidential information about the prevention and treatment of STDs and testing locations, call the Minnesota Family Planning and STD Hotline at 1-800-78-FACTS (voice or TTY), 651-645-9360 (Metro area), Text ASKMN to 66746, or visit their website at Minnesota Family Planning and STD Hotline.
Community Events–Free and Open to the Public
STI Testing Day Event, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at several Twin Cities metropolitan locations. Visit this website for times and locations: Crush - STI Testing Day (obsolete link removed).