STI rates decline at U

As the Twin Cities sees STI rates rise, the U sees them fall.

Boynton Health Service distributes more than 100,000 condoms on-campus every year. This, as well as other services offered by Boynton, has helped sexually transmitted infection rates among University of Minnesota students decline by 20 percent in 2008, Boynton Director Dr. Edward Ehlinger said. This comes at a time when Minnesota is experiencing consistent increases in STI cases. There were 17,650 new STI cases reported in Minnesota during 2008, the Minnesota Department of Health announced Tuesday. This marked a 3.5 percent increase over 2007 cases, despite an overall decrease in gonorrhea cases statewide. Chlamydia cases increased 7 percent from 2007 to 2008, becoming 81 percent of the stateâÄôs STI cases. This continues a 13-year trend of rising chlamydia cases. Gonorrhea declined by 12 percent. A total of 3,036 new cases were reported last year, with nearly 80 percent occurring in the Twin Cities and suburban areas. âÄúOur rates for sexually transmitted infections are markedly lower than ones in the surrounding community for the same age groups,âÄù Ehlinger said. âÄúThis has stayed fairly consistent for âĦ the last eight years.âÄù Ehlinger said University students are a âÄúcondom-friendly crowd,âÄù and most are monogamous, which decreases the chances of catching an STI. âÄúCollege students generally have fewer sex partners than people believe,âÄù he said. Boynton found that University students average fewer than two partners over a 12-month period Boynton offers STI testing for students and keeps the purpose of the test confidential. Students often shy away from getting tested for STIs because they think their parents will see the test on the insurance bill, Ehlinger said. However, the University has adopted a confidential billing policy that does not include the purpose of the test in the bill. Peter Carr , director of the Department of Health’s STI section, said his department is looking for state policy changes to help with the problem. They are also looking for a grant to promote STI testing. âÄúThere have been efforts in the legislature to promote more standardized sexual education,âÄù Carr said. Young adults around Minnesota are reluctant to seek treatment for STIs because they wait until symptoms occur before they get tested, Dave Johnson, a Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support epidemiologist, said. This âÄúwait and seeâÄù approach leads to untreated STIs that are spread unknowingly. No matter the amount of their deductibles, University students donâÄôt have to pay cash out of pocket for STI testing, Ehlinger said. âÄúStudents can come in to Boynton and get a test without any cash needed,âÄù he said. âÄúThereâÄôs nothing cheaper than free.âÄù