Minnesota health officials report record number of STDs

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Photo credit Minnesota Department of Health

Sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and hepatitis cases have reached record numbers across Minnesota, health officials reported.

The Minnesota Department of Health’s annual Sexually Transmitted Disease, HIV and Hepatitis Surveillance Report shows a continued rise in STDs in 2017. Since 2007, the chlamydia rate has increased by 71 percent, and the gonorrhea rate increased by 84 percent.

The new report shows a 10 percent increase in new syphilis cases and a 28 percent increase in new gonorrhea cases compared to 2016.

HIV cases remained relatively stable, but disparities remain among communities of color and men who have sex with men. Hepatitis C cases increased by 15 percent in 2017, and half of the new cases reported injection drug use.

There were 30,981 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in 2017 compared to 28,631 cases in 2016. Sixty-two percent of chlamydia cases occurred in teens and young adults between ages 15 and 24.

One of every three cases occurred in Greater Minnesota, with at least two cases reported in every county.

Gonorrhea remained the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota with 6,519 cases reported in 2017, a 28 percent increase from the 5,104 cases reported in 2016. Forty-five percent of gonorrhea cases occurred among 15 to 24-year-olds, and 78 percent of cases occurred in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Syphilis cases increased 10 percent with 934 cases in 2017 compared to 852 in 2016. New infections continued to be centered within the Twin Cities metropolitan area and among males, particularly among men who have sex with men.

The number of resolved hepatitis C cases reached a new high in 2017 at 2,982 newly resolved infections. This is more than double the resolved infections in 2016 (1,421).

HIV cases remained stable with 284 cases reported in 2017, compared to 290 cases in 2016. The state averaged around 300 cases per year for the last five years. Males accounted for 74 percent of all new HIV cases during 2017. Male-to-male sex remained the main risk factor for males of all ages, making up 66 percent of new infections among male cases. Sixty-six percent of new HIV cases were among communities of color.

“A lot of people assume they only need to get tested if they have symptoms,” said Krissie Guerard, manager of the STD, HIV and TB section at MDH. “The truth is that STDs, HIV and hepatitis C often have no symptoms. We urge people who are sexually active and people who inject drugs to get tested at least yearly for STDs, HIV and hepatitis C to protect their health and the health of their partners.”

STDs, HIV and hepatitis C infections are all highly preventable. Effective prevention methods include consistent and correct condom use during sex and not sharing injection drug, tattoo and piercing equipment. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a daily prescription medication that can prevent HIV infection when taken consistently and correctly.