MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reports more people are contracting sexually transmitted diseases in Minnesota compared to previous years.
According to the department’s annual STD, HIV, and Hepatitis report there were 28,631 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2016. It’s more than a 10 percent increase from 2015.
Syphilis cases rose 30 percent while gonorrhea cases rose 25 percent. Hepatitis C also jumped to a new high of 51 cases compared to 37 in 2015. That’s an increase of 38 percent.
HIV cases went from 290 cases to 298 in 2016. The study found communities of color and injection drug users had more new HIV infections than other groups. State officials said the findings aren’t a total surprise.
“I think they’re a little higher than expected, but it is going with the trends that we’ve seen over the past couple of years, not only just Minnesota but nationally as well,” said Krissie Guerard, who manages the HIV/STD section of MDH.
The report also noted a trend between STD cases and drug use.
“With drug use, it doesn’t cause syphilis, however it can harbor your ability to make wise sexual decisions,” Guerard said.
The study also found that most new cases of Hepatitis C involved people who admitted to injecting drugs into their body, such as heroin. That’s why they’re advising users to not share dirty needles.
The simplest piece of advice Guerard had was to wear a condom. At the University of Minnesota, that idea is being passed around by the thousands.
“We give out over 100,000 per year,” said David Golden, Public Health and Communication Director for Boynton Health Services at the University of Minnesota.
The university has a group called SHADE (Sexual Health and Disease Education) which hands out the condoms, while also hosting different events to encourage safe sex. However, a 2015 survey of students found they’re using condoms less frequently.
“We saw that drop from approximately 60 percent down to 52 percent,” Golden said. “And since we’ve been surveying students in 1995, this is the first time we’ve actually seen that number go down.”
Golden said why condom use decreased is unknown, but it is being researched.
On Tuesday, April 25, Community Restoring Urban Youth Sexual Health (CRUSH) coalition will host its third annual STD Testing Day with free testing. For more information on locations, click here.