A total of 25,986 cases of STDs were diagnosed in 2015, up 6 percent from 2014 and 33 percent from five years ago.
“This disturbingly high rate of growth in the number of STD cases shows the need for improved education about STDs among both the general public and healthcare providers,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health, in a released statement. “These rates also provide further evidence that eroding basic local public health services not only hurts our ability to respond to intractable problems like STDs, but also to emerging infectious diseases like Zika virus.”
Here are a few findings from the report:
Chlamydia: Last year’s jump in STDs was primarily driven by new chlamydia cases, which increased by 7 percent. There were 21,128 reported cases in 2015. Most occurred among teens and young adults, aged 15 to 24.
Not only is chlamydia Minnesota’s most frequently reported STD, it’s also the state’s most commonly reported infectious disease.
Two-thirds of last year’s chlamydia cases were diagnosed in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, but at least three cases were reported in every county in the state. The chlamydia rate increased the most in 2015 in Minneapolis (13 percent), but also rose in St. Paul (6 percent), in the Minneapolis and St. Paul suburbs (7 percent) and in Greater Minnesota (3 percent).
Gonorrhea: Cases of gonorrhea, the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota, remained essentially stable in 2015, increasing by only 1 percent to 4,097 cases. Almost half of the cases (46 percent) were diagnosed in teens and young adults, and more than three-fourths (77 percent) occurred in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Although Minneapolis and St. Paul have the highest rates of gonorrhea infection, the only area of Minnesota that had an increase in gonorrhea cases in 2015 was Greater Minnesota, where the numbers jumped 15 percent.
Syphilis: The syphilis rate rose 4 percent in 2015, to 654 cases. Most new cases of syphilis are being diagnosed within the Twin Cities metropolitan area and among men, particularly men who have sex with men. But syphilis rates also jumped 70 percent in 2015 among women, primarily among women of childbearing age, including pregnant women. In three cases, the infection was passed from a pregnant woman through the placenta to her unborn baby (a form of the disease known as congenital syphilis).
The MDH report also notes that racial disparities in STDs continued in Minnesota in 2015, with communities of color often having the highest rates (but not the highest numbers) of infection.
“Addressing disparities is a health department priority, particularly among those racial and ethnic groups with limited access to STD testing and prevention programs due to longstanding social, medical or income disadvantages,” Ehlinger said.
A national trend
Although the growth in STDs last year is troubling, it’s not surprising, said Krissie Guerard, manager of the HIV, STD and tuberculosis section at MDH, in an interview with MinnPost.
“We’ve been noticing a rise in STDs for some time, not just on the state level, but nationally as well,” she said.
It’s not clear why STDs are on the rise, but one factor may be that more people are being tested because of the expansion of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Guerard said.
Research has also shown that many people today — particularly younger people — are unaware of how prevalent STDs are, or how the infections can be spread even before symptoms appear.
“I think that it’s just really important to get out the word to people that STDs are serious,” Guerard said. “A lot of symptoms for STDs are asymptomatic. Often, if people don’t feel the problem or see the problem, they don’t think they have the problem.”
State health officials recommend that sexually active people get tested for STDs annually or when they become involved with a new partner. Pregnant women should be tested three times during their pregnancy: at their first doctor’s visit, at their 28th week of pregnancy and at delivery.
FMI: The full report can be found on the MDH website. Information on how to confidentially inquire about being tested and treated for STDs can be found on the Minnesota Family Planning and STD Hotline website.