Health officials urge more testing, education after STD rate rises

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Reports of some sexually transmitted diseases rose by 6 percent in Minnesota last year compared to 2013, the Minnesota Department of Health announced Thursday.

There were 24,599 cases reported in 2014, compared to 23,133 in 2013, with chlamydia being the most prevalent of the three diseases.

The increase in cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis prompted health officials to call for more screenings, better prevention methods and increased partner notification to reduce the STD rates in the state.

Health officials note STD rates continue to be the highest in the city of Minneapolis. However the metro area and greater Minnesota account for a large percentage of cases, with the majority of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases affecting young adults.

Here's a closer look at some of the data.

Chlamydia

The number of chlamydia cases increased 6 percent, from 18,724 in 2013 to 19,897 last year. Sixty-six percent of cases were present in teens and young adults, ages 15-24.

From 2004 to 2014, the number of cases of chlamydia has increased 64 percent, MDH says. The increase is due in part to a change in reporting techniques, officials note.

Every county in Minnesota had at least two reported cases of chlamydia in 2014, with one-third of the total cases being reported in greater Minnesota. (Click here for a closer look at the counties where chlamydia cases are most common.)

Nationally, chlamydia is also the most prevalent STD. In 2013, the most recent data available, there were 1,401,906 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes.

The CDC says most people don't realize they have chlamydia because it often shows no symptoms, but if left untreated can made it difficult for women to get pregnant.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea, the second most commonly reported STD in the state, was more prevalent in the Twin Cities.

In 2014, there were 4,073 cases, compared to 3,872 the year before – a 5 percent increase. Seventy-nine percent of those cases were reported in the Twin Cities metro.

Gonorrhea also is more common in young adults – 51 percent of cases statewide were reported in people ages 15-24.

Something else of note: For the first time in the last decade, the gonorrhea rate among men was higher than the rate among women.

Nationally, the rate of gonorrhea stayed stable from 2012 to 2013, the CDC notes.

Gonorrhea rates in the state have fluctuated over the past decade, but overall the number of cases have increased 33 percent.

Syphilis

New cases of syphilis are also centered around the Twin Cities, particularly in men who have sex with men, MDH says.

Of all early syphilis cases reported last year, 90 percent were among males – 76 percent of those males where men who have sex with men.

Fifty percent of those men were infected with HIV as well, MDH says.

Overall, the number of syphilis cases increased 33 percent last year to 629 reported cases, up from 537 in 2013. In the past decade, the syphilis rate has increased 860 percent – but health officials say this rate is disproportionately large because the number of cases is so small.

Nationally, health officials have also seen an increase in cases of syphilis among gay and bisexual men, the CDC says.

Racial disparities persist

Racial disparities in STDs continue to persist in Minnesota, with communities of color having the highest rates.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea have higher infection rates among communities of color and American Indians when compared to their white counterparts, while syphilis infection rates were highest among African Americans, Asians and white men who have sex with men.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger said health officials need to work toward "achieving health equity" for communities that have the fewest STD prevention opportunities.

"Expanding our partnerships with our most impacted communities will help to ensure that these services are available, culturally acceptable and therefore being used," Ehlinger said in the release.

For more information on STDs, treatment and prevention, click here.

The Department of Health looks at HIV separately; data for 2014 is expected to be released April 30.

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