STI cases up locally, following nationwide trend

A pamphlet explaining various sexually transmitted infections.
A pamphlet explaining various sexually transmitted infections.(25 News / Heart of Illinois ABC)
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:50 PM CDT
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(25 News Now) - Case numbers are up nationally for sexually transmitted infections, and the numbers in Central Illinois are following suit.

Doctors say the rise can be attributed, at least partially, to the COVID-19 pandemic, when resources for treating and testing for STI’s were harder to come by. New preliminary CDC data says there were 2.5 million cases of the most prevalent STI’s nationwide in 2021.

“Whether it is increased discovery or increased occurrence is, at best, very difficult to determine,” Dr. James Ausfahl at Unitypoint Health said.

Testing is coming back, but numbers are still rising nationally and locally for things like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Locally, McLean County saw a 20 percent increase in chlamydia cases, with positive results up by more than 100 cases per 100,000 people.

Some of these infections, if untreated, can lead to infertility. Central Illinois Friends is a nonprofit working to raise awareness of the infections and promoting safe sex. Executive Director Deric Kimler says, things could turn around if the right steps are taken.

“We need to get people tested, to see the rates go up, get as much treatment out as possible, and then you lower your community’s viral load,” Kimler said.

Dr. Ausfahl says caution can be key to keeping yourself safe.

“If you’re only six degrees of seperation from something you don’t want, maybe you need to control your contacts in that area,” Dr. Ausfahl said.

Health Departments in the area recommend periodic testing, which they offer for free. In McLean County for example, the results are anonymous, and they also offer free condoms.