Sexually transmitted diseases on the rise in Minnesota

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Cases of sexually transmitted disease increased in Minnesota in 2008, according to data released by the Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday. Young men and women accounted for the bulk of the increase, prompting some observers to call for an aggressive STD prevention campaign in Minnesota.

“What surprised us with the 2008 chlamydia data was the sudden and large increase in cases among males,” said Peter Carr, director of the STD and HIV section at the health department. “We saw a 13-percent increase among 15- to 24-year-old males, compared to the 2007 report.”

Also alarming were increases in Greater Minnesota. “With gonorrhea cases, the Twin Cities and suburban areas saw a drop in the number of cases, and Greater Minnesota saw a 14-percent increase,” said Carr. “Statewide, about six out of 10 cases occurred among those between the ages of 15 and 24.”

Minnesota also saw an uptick in the number of syphilis cases primarily among men who have sex with men.

In all, there were 14,250 cases of chlamydia reported to the health department, 3,036 cases of gonorrhea and 263 cases of syphilis. Chlamydia and syphilis rates have been rising for the last decade while gonorrhea rates have remained somewhat stable.

“It is vital that Minnesota’s public health community be supported in its effort to screen and treat this epidemic of sexually transmitted infections,” said state Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville. “It is unacceptable that the rates of sexually transmitted diseases continue to rise in Minnesota. We must develop an action plan to curb it.”

Marty has proposed legislation to target $1 million for combating gonorrhea and chlamydia.

“STI [sexually transmitted infection] rates have been rising for more than a decade in Minnesota. This is a serious public health problem, and we need to focus on solutions,” said Connie Lewis, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. “We see the toll the epidemic of sexually transmitted infections has taken in our health centers every day. It’s critical that the state and the health care community work together to reverse these rising rates,” she said.

Efforts to incorporate comprehensive sex education in Minnesota school system have failed to pass the Legislature over the last decade, mainly because of a veto threat from Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who defers to conservative Christian organizations on the issue.

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