Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month, observed each April, is an opportunity to raise awareness about what STDs are and how they impact our lives, and to understand why it’s important to prevent, test for and treat STDs. The surge of STDs endangers the health of too many in the United States. Most of us will have a sexually transmitted disease or infection in our lifetime. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is not a reportable disease to health departments, is estimated to impact more than 80 percent of us.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2013-2017:

• Syphilis cases nearly doubled

• Gonorrhea cases increased by 67 percent

• Chlamydia cases remained at record highs

What do these diseases and numbers look like in Cayuga County? Of the reportable communicable diseases, chlamydia is the highest in Cayuga County. Cases of chlamydia have remained consistent over the past five years, with an average of 240 in each of those years. So far for 2019, we have seen 66 confirmed cases.

Second highest is gonorrhea. Gonorrhea cases in Cayuga County have been trending with the national rates. The majority of cases are being diagnosed in 20-40-year-olds.

Here are the numbers of cases of gonorrhea over the past five years, with a notable increase in 2018:

• 2014: 16

• 2015: 24

• 2016: 21

• 2017: 22

• 2018: 108

So far this year, we already have 12 confirmed cases.

We have not really seen an increase in syphilis cases like other parts of the New York state and across the country. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, there was one case diagnosed in each of those years. In 2018, and so far for 2019, we have not have any cases of syphilis diagnosed.

What could be the reason for these increases? One thought is that many of these diseases are treatable, leading individuals to perceive there is no real long-term health consequence from having them. But that is not the case, and we will discuss that later. Another factor is the new culture of meeting people online and casually hooking up without protection.

Many of these diseases and infections do not present with symptoms, so unless you are getting tested and then treated, you may not realize you are infected and therefore could be spreading it to more sexual partners. Leaving these untreated can lead to infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, miscarriage, premature birth and cancer, just to name a few.

The Cayuga County Health Department subcontracts our STD clinic to East Hill Family Medical. Confidential, walk-in STD testing is available from 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays. Here, patients can be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. Testing for STDs is through either urine or blood, or both.

If you cannot make it to the Monday evening clinic, contact East Hill Family Medical’s Reproductive Health Services at (315) 253-8477 or easthillmedical.com. The office is located in Metcalf Plaza, 144 Genesee St., Suite 401, in Auburn.

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Deanna Ryan, M.S., is a senior public health educator with the Cayuga County Health Department.