STD cases rising across both state and campus

Jessie Bekker

Minnesota’s number of sexually transmitted diseases has grown, and so has the amount among University of Minnesota students.
 
The diseases rose 6 percent in Minnesota from 2013 to 2014, while students at the University’s Twin Cities campus reported an increase of 1.4 percent from 2013 to 2015. State and school health officials are now researching why the increase occurred and are making plans to help reverse the trend.
 
The state’s increase could be due to more patients reporting to their doctors than in the past, but University officials are sure that’s not the case for campus. The school got its data from the College Student Health Survey, which circulates about every three years. 
 
The survey found that while only 1.7 percent of respondents reported having an STD in 2013, 3.1 percent reported having one within the past 12 months.
 
The survey also found that only about half of its respondents use condoms, though Director of Boynton Health Service’s Public Health and Communications Dave Golden said his service distributes about 100,000 free ones to the campus community each year.
 
He said school officials will have to step up their education measures to help students prevent STDs, though they don’t have specific plans in the works.
 
Boynton officials will determine their next steps over the summer, Golden said, after they further analyze the survey’s data.
 
“[We] really want to do the legwork to figure out why [we might] be seeing a drop in condom use, for example,” Golden said.
 
Coordinators for Boynton’s peer educator group, called Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education, already present sexual health information in places like residential halls and greek houses, said Kate Elwell, the group’s advisor and Boynton health promotion specialist.
 
For both the University and the state, the number of chlamydia cases rose the most, increasing 6 percent in Minnesota and 2 percent on campus.
 
So far, the University hasn’t analyzed the demographics behind its data, but the state’s increases in chlamydia and gonorrhea were most prevalent among people aged 15 to 24  and in African-American, American Indian and Hispanic populations.
 
Krissie Guerard, manager of the state department’s HIV/STD/TB section, said STD cases in Minnesota have been increasing for at least 15 years and officials have yet to determine the source of the problem. 
 
Health care providers are required to report the number of STDs they treat annually to the health department, she said. But because they don’t include the number of people they have tested, department officials don’t know the true scope of the 
results.
 
Though chlamydia’s increase was the most overall, Guerard said the state monitors cases of syphilis more closely because that disease can cause blindness, dementia and, in some cases, death.
 
The department has information about the diseases on its website and asks physicians to promote testing and protection during sex. 
 
Still, department officials want to do more to prevent future increases by boosting education for physicians, promoting protection during sex and providing more sexual health information to high-risk populations.