The number of sexually transmitted diseases in Minnesota reached a record high in 2010, according to a report released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Health.
Last year there were 17,760 reported cases of STDs in Minnesota, up from 16,912 in 2009. Under state law, physicians and laboratories must report laboratory-confirmed infections of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis to MDH within one working day.
Reported cases of chlamydia – the most common of the three diseases measured – increased 6 percent between 2009 and 2010, bringing it to the highest number of recorded cases since the MDH began tracking it in 1986.
“We’re seeing the ongoing trend of increases in the number of chlamydia cases,” said Peter Carr, director of the STD and HIV section of MDH. “And that’s not slowing down a bit. Last year it looked like things might be slowing down, but this year we’re back to the trend we’ve seen for longer than 10 years.”
Teenagers and young adults ages 15 to 24 are at the heart of the increase, making up 70 percent of cases.
Carr said the disease could be more prevalent in the younger demographic because the cervix is more susceptible to chlamydia at that age.
According to MDH data, blacks experienced a proportionally higher rate of each of the three diseases.
While blacks make up 5.2 percent of Minnesota’s population, according to 2010 U.S. census data, they accounted for 29 percent of chlamydia cases, 48 percent of gonorrhea cases and 27 percent of syphilis cases.
Reported cases of syphilis also spiked last year, increasing 62 percent. The rate of those infected with syphilis and HIV rose from 45.3 percent in 2009 to 48.6 percent in 2010.
Of the 221 early stage syphilis cases, 89 percent affected men who had sex with men.
To help combat this trend, MDH launched a campaign last June to raise awareness among gay and bisexual men and plans on doing the same this year.
As cases of chlamydia and syphilis are on the rise, reported cases of gonorrhea have been on the decline for several years, which is confusing to experts like Carr.
“We don’t have a good explanation for that, and it is particularly perplexing given the increases in chlamydia at the same time,” Carr said. “There’s been nothing that we know of to particularly address gonorrhea.
Students at the University of Minnesota don’t appear to have been affected by the statewide increase, according to surveys conducted by Boynton Health Service. In the 2010 results, only 0.7 percent of students reported being diagnosed with chlamydia, with no students reporting a diagnosis of gonorrhea or syphilis.
Boynton’s Director of Public Health Dave Golden said the low rate of STDs on campus could be a result of the 78 percent of students who reported having one or no sexual partners in the last year.