News release: Sexually transmitted and injection drug-related infections rose in Minnesota in 2016

News Release
April 20, 2017

Contact information

Sexually transmitted and injection drug-related infections rose in Minnesota in 2016

The Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) annual sexually transmitted disease (STD), HIV and hepatitis surveillance report shows a concerning rise in STDs in 2016 compared to 2015, including a 30 percent increase in new syphilis cases and a 25 percent increase in new gonorrhea cases. The number of new chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis cases combined in Minnesota increased by 10 percent in 2016 compared to 2015. The report noted a trend in increased STD cases among people who use drugs, particularly heroin, prescription opiates and methamphetamine.

While the total number of HIV cases for 2016 remained about the same as in 2015, communities of color and injection drug users had more new HIV infections than other groups. Rates of new hepatitis C infections also increased 38 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, and over half of the new cases reported injection drug use.

“This alarming rise in STDs and hepatitis C is of urgent concern,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “MDH and local public health departments, clinicians and our community partners are using every resource we have to maintain the health of Minnesotans and protect them from the health consequences that can be caused by untreated disease. If funding for the prevention of infectious disease in Minnesota continues to be reduced as we have seen in recent years, we will not be able to put an end to these rising infection rates.”

Key findings

There were 28,631 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in 2016 compared to 25,986 in 2015.

  • Chlamydia is the No. 1 reported infectious disease in the state and reached a new high of 22,675 cases in 2016 compared to 21,238 in 2015, a 7 percent increase.
    • The majority of cases occurred in teens and young adults ages 15 to 24.
    • One out of every 3 cases occurred in Greater Minnesota, with at least four cases reported in every county in Minnesota.
  • Gonorrhea remained the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota with 5,104 cases reported in 2016 compared to 4,097 in 2015, a 25 percent increase.
    • Forty-six percent of all gonorrhea cases occurred among 15- to 24-year-olds, and 79 percent occurred in the Twin Cities metropolitan and suburban areas.
  • Syphilis cases rose with 852 cases in 2016 compared to 653 in 2015, a 30 percent increase.
    • New infections continued to be centered within the Twin Cities metropolitan area and among males, particularly men who have sex with men. However, the number of cases located in Greater Minnesota increased by 58 percent.
    • Also of concern are the reports of syphilis cases among females of child-bearing age in all racial and ethnic groups, as well as pregnant women.
    • Six congenital syphilis cases were reported in 2016, compared to two in 2015.
  • HIV cases in Minnesota remained relatively stable at 290 cases in 2016 compared to 298 in 2015.
    • Of the 290 HIV cases reported in 2016, more than half (59 percent) were among communities of color.
    • A majority of all cases were in men who have sex with men.
    • HIV infection continues to rise among injection drug users with 27 cases reported in 2016 and 26 cases reported in 2015, compared to 16 cases in 2014 and 14 cases in 2013.
    • While the majority of cases are still in the seven-county metro area, there was a 41 percent increase in new HIV infections in Greater Minnesota with 52 cases in 2016 compared to 37 In 2015.
  • Acute hepatitis C cases reached a new high at 51 cases in 2016 compared to 37 in 2015.
    • The rate of acute hepatitis C infection is highest in American Indian Minnesotans.
    • Twenty-eight cases reported injection drug use.
    • Infections in young people remain elevated with 24 percent of newly reported chronic infections occurring in people under 30.

Health officials recommend that sexually active people and people who inject drugs get tested at least once each year for STDs, HIV and hepatitis C. Health care providers should also offer these tests to all patients at risk of infection.

“These diseases usually do not show physical symptoms immediately,” said Kristen Ehresmann, who directs infectious disease work at MDH. ”Early diagnosis and treatment are critical for the well-being of the patient as well as disease prevention.”

STDs, HIV and hepatitis C infections are all highly preventable. Effective prevention methods include consistent and correct condom use during sex, limiting the number of sexual partners and not sharing injection drug, tattoo and piercing equipment. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a daily prescription medication that can significantly reduce a person’s risk for HIV infection when taken consistently and correctly. 

MDH provides funding to many community-based programs throughout Minnesota to serve people who are more often affected by STDs, HIV and hepatitis C infections. These programs provide Minnesotans with prevention education, testing services, support for people who need care and sterile syringe access.

The Community Restoring Urban Youth Sexual Health (CRUSH) coalition will host its third annual STI Testing Day on Tuesday, April 25. The coalition and MDH urge teenagers and young adults to get tested for STDs on this date to honor the observance. A complete list of participating clinic locations providing free testing on April 25 is available at CRUSH (obsolete link removed).

More information, as well as the complete Minnesota 2016 Surveillance Reports for STDs, HIV and hepatitis C, can be found on the MDH website:


Media inquiries:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications