Love in Washington State: STI rates increase dramatically

washingtonHIVcolorWashington State residents know how to love but they are not too cautious about the way they “do it.” Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are the most widely and commonly reported of all diseases in Washington State: STIs are responsible for 74% of communicable diseases.

Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said, “This is not just a big city problem…sexually transmitted diseases can be devastating for those who are infected and their partners. It’s vital that we work to reverse this trend in every Washington community.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Washington State reported 12,826 cases of AIDS, which ranks the state 19th highest among the 50 states in cases.

However the most commonly reported STI locally and nationally is Chlamydia.  If untreated, these infections can ultimately lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can result in ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility. Sadly, most cases remain undiagnosed.

Washington State is ranked 33rd among 50 states in chlamydial infections. The majority of the Chlamydia cases were reported from young women between the ages of 15 and 24.

In 2009 the rate of infection was 217 per 100,000 persons. In 2010 there was a slight increase; the rate of infection was 330.9 per 100,000 persons.

Mark Stenger, an STI epidemiologist for the Department of Health said, “Reported gonorrhea cases are at the highest rates we’ve seen in 13 years…we’re also seeing increased resistance to antibiotics, behavior changes in the population, and other risk behaviors that concern us and our local health partners.”

Infections from Gonorrhea are a major cause of illness in the United States. Washington State is ranked 36th among 50 states in gonorrheal infections. Consequences of infection can include chronic pelvic pain, PID, and ectopic pregnancies.

Cases among both males and females are highest in the 20 to 24 age group.

According to Washington State Department of Health, Gonorrhea cases continue to be more concentrated in urban settings than cases of chlamydial infection.” However, “Chlamydial infection is more broadly dispersed throughout the sexually active population, with rural counties experiencing rates similar to more densely populated urban areas.”

Back in 2007, when the state first realized the rise in STIs (13 percent increase in gonorrhea cases), the Department of Health created programs to reduce the spread. The programs include STI education for health care providers, free testing for young adults, supporting local clinics, and offering special trainings for health care professionals. Since then, the numbers have not increased not did they decrease: they have remained constant.

Stenger also said, “This is an especially troubling trend in light of the likelihood of HIV infection among this population…these statistics indicate that many people fail to take simple precautions when having sex.”

Valentine’s Day and condoms, without a doubt, go hand-in-hand. Across the globe, February 14th is everyone’s favorite night to get lucky. Have fun, be safe, and keep Washington State clean.

For more information on STIs in Washington State visit a Planned Parenthood near you or check out !