TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - The Arizona Department of Health Services says that the number of sexually transmitted diseases in the state is on the rise. It’s a trend that AZDHS says has been ongoing for years now, but nonetheless it’s a concerning one.
In Pima County health officials like Emerson Kuhn, the program manager for the HIV/STD surveillance program for the county, say that the continued increase in STDs is happening here as well. In fact, Kuhn says that from 2017 to 2018 the county saw a 24 percent increase in STDs, which he says is cause for concern and change.
“Why are we seeing this rise, really," Kuhn says. "Lets look at more than just this last year. Since 2000 STD rates have tripled.”
Those most vulnerable as a result of the statewide increase in STDs are pregnant women, women of childbearing age, young people, and men having sex with men. Racially speaking, AZDHS says that American Indians and black Arizonans have the highest rates of reportable STDs.
So which sexually transmitted diseases are seeing the biggest increases? Well, AZDHS says in their newly released report that Gonorrhea has increased 94 percent in the past five years. To make matters worse, the report goes on to say that Gonorrhea bacteria seem to have developed a resistance to a majority of treatments that are available so AZDHS is now testing samples each month to analyze their resistance to antibiotics. Along with that the number of cases of syphilis in babies doubled from 2016 to 2017 which comes as a result of the rapid increase of syphilis in women who are pregnant.
With all of these numbers on the rise the Pima County Health Department says there are changes we, as a society, need to make to see these numbers go down instead of up.
“What conversations are we having with our youth about safety, about protection, about social media use and dating apps,” Kuhn says of the conversation around sexually transmitted diseases. "I mean there’s so many things that are super available and we’re not talking about how to protect ourselves in all sorts of ways. So I think that having those conversations and starting at home is what we really need to focus in on.”
Something else Kuhn suggests - talking about your boundaries with your partner and making a habit of getting tested together. He explains that communal accountability is key to lowering these numbers.
One other thing Kuhn noted about the increase in STDs in Pima County and statewide is that it may partially come as a result of more people getting tested since more people getting tested means more test results to analyze.
Anyone interested in STD related healthcare through Pima County can access that the Abrams Public Health Center near Ajo and Country Club or at the Theresa Lee Public Health Center off of I-10 and Valencia.